Ssh.. there are children reading in the cosy corner... children enjoying the pleasure of reading- sharing stories and ideas, reading without direction, judgement or fear of failure. This is literacy at its purest- children nurturing their interest and learning through play.
The place for books in kindergarten is to fuel the children’s imaginations and sense of possibility, fill them with a love of language and stories, building solid foundations for literacy learning, later, in school.
This is the second in a series of seven abridged articles about kindergarten life, which we will be posting over the coming weeks. The full article is below.
A Place for Books in Kindergarten
We have a basket of beautifully illustrated books in our quiet corner.
As it is our wish that in the future the children will enjoy the pleasures of reading, we do not think that they need to be shielded from books. So although we don’t direct their literacy learning, which we feel in the first six years should happen naturally through play, stories and social interaction, there is a place for books and other print in kindergarten, and that place is to fuel the children’s imagination and sense of possibility, fill them with a love of language and stories, and to help build sound foundations for their future learning.
In our washroom there is a little china plaque, with a picture of Humpty Dumpty, and the words ‘Now wash your hands’. Every day the children line up under this sign when they have washed their hands, and usually one of them will ‘read’ the sign, coming up with something new each time, and never so far to do with washing or hands.
There is a notice on the cloakroom door that says ‘Kindergarten Cloakroom’. One day it fell off, some children picked it up and started to read it: “Look, a notice.” “I noticed the notice.” I noticed you noticing the notice.” “It says…” “I think it says…” etc. They did not ask a teacher what it said, just played with words and used their imaginations, confident in their own capability to decode its meaning. They were also taking turns to speak, listening to each other, developing their vocabulary. They were using their imagination, their will to make sense of their world, which is really the very essence of what we do in a Steiner kindergarten. Oh, and they were giggling.
Sometimes the children like to sit on their own and look at books, sometimes they like to share them with friends. Four of the six-year-old children spent much of one morning snuggled up together on cushions with a pile of books, reading to each other. None of these children can actually read, so what were they doing? Just looking at the pictures? No, as they discussed the stories and pictures and negotiated the plots, they were enjoying each others company, being quiet together, relaxing, sharing their lived experiences, the stories that they have heard, their thoughts, opinions, ideas and love of words, extending their vocabularies, negotiating and constructing a common reality, planning future play, developing a desire to read and spontaneously learning the first steps of reading.
This kind of reading is wonderful to watch: reading without direction, without boundaries without fixed meaning, and without external expectations or judgements, without the thought, fear or possibility of failure. This is literacy at its purest, before it becomes something to be learned. It is literacy at its richest.
Experiencing books and other print in kindergarten, as in the home, normalises literacy, and helps the children to feel comfortable and confident around books, so that in the Lower School, learning to read will be an enjoyable, natural progression from sharing stories, and not a difficult or strange new thing to do. Although, of course, they are only playing.