Academic journal article Education

Using Guided Play to Enhance Children's Conversation, Creativity and Competence in Literacy

Academic journal article Education

Using Guided Play to Enhance Children's Conversation, Creativity and Competence in Literacy

Article excerpt


Language and literacy are at the core of children's experience and, apparently, children's literacy skills build from their knowledge of spoken language. Competence in language allows young children to communicate with others, enables them to learn and grow, and enriches their lives. As Henniger (2002) indicated, young children engage in language and literacy learning without any direct instruction. While children play and communicate, they are learning intuitively how language works, practicing its many nuances, and gaining insights into the meaning of written language. The purpose of this paper is to expand upon how children's conversation, and their creativity and competence in literacy, can be enhanced through play activities.

Language is a method of oral or written communication with others. In this context, literacy influences language in written form. In other words, literacy is the competence to interpret the prospective message in symbols and use it to communicate with others. As children's early years are generally the sensitive period for language development, adults have to do all they can to assist children in acquiring linguistic competence (e.g., involve children in story-telling activities during bed time). As Henniger (2002) mentioned, one important way for adults to help children develop communicative competence is through informal conversations. For example, adults can show their interest by listening carefully and paying attention to what children are saying and doing, which encourages children's further discussion.

The contribution of play to children's literacy development has been much studied and, as a result, has prompted much research activity over several decades. That play and literacy share common boundaries in developing the minds of young children is an intriguing idea (Roskos & Christie, 2004). In other words, by engaging in joyful play activities, children also build meaning or understanding, and develop skills closely associated with reading and writing competence. Moreover, Roskos and Christie (2004, p. 95) suggested that strong evidence exists that play: (a) serves literacy by providing settings that promote literacy activity, skills, and strategies; (b) provides a language experience that builds connections between oral and written modes of expression; and (c) provides opportunities to teach and learn literacy.

In the following parts of this article we discuss: (a) views of early literacy, (b) relationships between play and literacy, and (c) literacy and play in curricula.

Views of Early Literacy

Literacy is the ability to read and write. The development of literacy directly relates to language development. Although oral language accomplishes much communication, the ability to read and write extends possibilities to transmit and receive information (Frost, Wortham, & Reifel, 2001). Since children are the major audience for children's literature, this literature should appeal to their interests, needs, and reading preferences (Hancock, 2000). Basically, children's literature promotes an appreciation for the wonder of language, sparks the imagination, re-lives everyday experiences, and shares lives and information. For example, children's literature captures and shares the wonder of the written word and the appeal of well-chosen language which means, typically, capturing a poetic voice. Young children can celebrate familiar "Mother Goose" characters or identify with everyday experiences through a language-based adventure (Hancock, 2000). Also, young children particularly enjoy books that stimulate their imaginative powers and allow them to venture into the boundaries of the impossible. Following are two views of children's literature from historical and current perspectives.

Historical View

During the 20th century, children were considered to be non-readers before they entered school and began formal reading instruction (Searfoss, Readence, & Mallette, 2001). …

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