One of the key tenets of Early Literacy is play. Play is an integral part in a child’s development. Play allows children to use their creativity to decipher the world around them and build critical thinking and problem solving skills. As librarians and educators, we use play in various programs to engage children in learning and reading. Play is how kids learn! But research tells us that it isn’t just physical play that is important to learning. Play also includes digital play, creative play, and playing with language through music and movement.
Digital play has become just as important as physical play. Kids retrieve information from the internet as well as from books. This is true now more than ever before. In Research in Brief: Digital Play in Early Childhood Education: Supporting Children’s Relational Information Literacy research conducted by Theobald et. al. observed how digital play helped foster children’s information literacy and how educators can use digital play to facilitate creative, critical and evaluative thinking. There can be a disconnect or gap between obtaining new information and understanding and evaluating the information obtained. Relational Information Literacy is the name for the process children use to evaluate and put into context the knowledge that they have obtained. Digital play helps in that process by offering a medium in which children can playfully engage with the new knowledge that they have retrieved. Researchers in the Theobald study established the 3C Questioning Framework: Connect, Contest and Create to help educators assist children in their relational information literacy. In Storytime we use dialogic reading to engage readers in the stories that we share so that the experience is multidimensional. Similarly, we can use the 3C Questioning Framework to engage children in the digital space when they gather information.
Let’s move now from digital play to the importance of introducing play in early education. Research done by Rizaeva Munisaxon Mahkamovna in Challenges of Creativity and Competence of Children in Early Childhood Education studies the impact of a preschool education program on a child’s creativity. The study shows that children in a preschool environment in which creativity was fostered by teachers showed an improvement in cognitive and social development. Furthermore, play programs greatly impact a child’s creative behavior (Mahkamovna, 2020). This research supports the various play programs at the library and their necessity.
We have seen play in relation to the digital space, in preschool education and now how about in learning the English language? For most countries outside of the United States to be competitive in any field internationally the English language is important to master. In Introducing English in Early Year’s Children Through Dancing and Singing the research notes that the first foreign language in Indonesia is English and the teachers are limited in the mediums that they have in introducing English in early childhood education. They are oftentimes limited to printed material that may with time be less engaging for their young students. It is acknowledged that in play children learn a great deal. Teaching children the English language using methods of dancing and singing will not only keep them engaged but help their visual, auditory and motor skills. Their enthusiasm with this method will encourage consistency which will in turn improve fluency (Purnamawati, 2020). Thus a CD recording of dancing and singing was introduced. The kids and teachers would imitate what was on the CD. The results demonstrate an improvement in their fluency. This study highlights what we do during storytime when we accompany each story with an action song or rhyme. Furthermore, many patrons for whom English is their second language use storytime as a way of learning that language.
Our kids learn from playing. Within play they use their creative and problem-solving skills. It can be used in navigating different planes. We see play in the digital space in which it can be used to aid in information gathering. We see play in early childhood education fostering creativity. Lastly, we see play captivating an audience learning the English language. It is a great tool we librarians and educators have in our stockpile.
Today’s blog post was written by Ruth Guerrier-Pierre, Senior Children’s Librarian of New York Public Library, on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at Ruthguerrierpierre@nypl.org
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies:
- Commitment to Client Group
- Programming Skills