Adapting Literacy Environments for Children

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As an early childhood educator, one of your tasks is to make literacy appealing and accessible to all learners. This lesson offers some concrete ideas for how to adapt literacy environments for children.

The Importance of the Literacy Environment

At the preschool where Juliette teaches, literacy is a priority. This doesn't mean that children are expected to learn to read and write fluently in preschool. In the early childhood setting, literacy means developing an appreciation of language and stories, as well as some basic skills and concepts that will help with emergent reading and writing. Juliette knows that it is sometimes important to make adaptations, or modifications, in the learning environment so that all children can begin to access and enjoy literacy on a level appropriate for their individual needs.

Diversity and the Literacy Environment

First of all, Juliette understands the significance of diversity, or inclusion of a variety of differences, when it comes to establishing a strong literacy environment for young children. This means ensuring access to books with characters and authors from a variety of cultures and ethnic groups. It also means understanding different families' approaches to language and literacy in the home, and incorporating elements of these approaches into the school environment.

Juliette also attends to a diversity of learning styles, temperaments and strengths among her students, building visual, kinesthetic, and verbally oriented activities into every day's schedule.

Modifying and Adapting Texts

Sometimes, Juliette actually modifies and adapts texts themselves to make them more accessible to children. When she is reading aloud, she sometimes changes the gender of characters to avoid stereotypes or add broader appeal. And when she shows children texts, she tries to replace complex vocabulary with simpler alternatives, sometimes placing masking tape over a word and writing over it in marker. She also breaks down longer sentences into shorter component parts to help children understand.

Juliette tries to choose texts that will be of high interest to her students, and she lets children know that they are always welcome to ask as many questions as they want. If a child is interested in a book with no pictures, Juliette might adapt it by finding images that will support the child's comprehension.

Listening, Listening, Listening

For many young children, listening to stories again and again is the best way to familiarize them with language and literacy. Juliette reads to her young students multiple times a day, in whole and small group settings. She also has a listening center in her class. This is an area where children can choose picture books and listen to their audio companion using headphones while trying to read along with words or pictures in the book. Juliette encourages families to read to children as much as possible and lets them borrow audio books from the classroom to use in the car or at home.

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