Literacy in early childhood
In this edition of He Kupu, the theme of literacy is explored with a particular focus on supporting teachers to recognise and respond to the wide variety of literacy skills children bring to early childhood settings. In a changing demographic, with multiple languages and oral language in the spot light (Education Review Office [ERO], 2017), this issue provides a timely reminder of supporting literacy through children’s play and creativity while teaching critical lifelong skills. Language and literacy is not only foundational to later academic success but also to the development of child voice, agency and identity.
In this article, I talk about my experience of ‘helicopter storytelling’ (Paley, 1990), which involves a playful collaboration between myself and the children. The process is initiated before mat-time by asking children if they have a story they would like to enact. The story is limited to one A5 page and can be about anything. No story is too short. I scribe the children’s narration of their stories and the children are then supported to re-enact their stories according to their preference of characters and roles. This fun and empowering experience honours the children as valuable and unique contributors who are experts in their own stories.
This article examines the role that early childhood teachers play in extending literacy interests and making them meaningful to children. Currently, shared book reading or story telling is often relegated to mat-times. This article serves to challenge teachers to consider how children’s literature, particularly picture and concept books, can be intentionally used in early childhood settings. Aspects of an optimal environment, such as physical provocations as well as teaching strategies to nurture children’s agency will be explored by drawing on a number of popular books published in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as classic picture books.
Understanding the importance of supporting literacy in high quality early childhood settings is a crucial role of the kaiako (teacher). The purpose of this article is to highlight the role of the kaiako in creating opportunities to promote engagement in a literacy rich environment. Therefore, a range of strategies to support kaiako to facilitate the child’s skill development in constructing meaning from contexts and communicating their ideas will be explored. We will use the term kaiako throughout this article to emphasise the role of kaiako as active facilitators, who support early literacy development in infants, toddlers and young children. Kaiako means teacher in te reo Māori and is composed of two words: kai meaning food, and ako meaning to learn or create knowledge together
It is important for kaiako to have a strong understanding of how language and literacy can be introduced to children while they engage in physical movements that are a part of their daily routines and play experiences. Kaiako can intentionally support children in their development of pre-literacy concepts while children are spontaneously engaging in their play. In fact, it is considered that the development of pre-literacy skills and knowledge of literacy is foundational to the literacy activities that the child will be expected to engage in their primary education (Martineau, 2017). This article will look at how kaiako can foster pre-literacy skills by purposefully setting up environments that invite language and literacy development in holistic ways through emergent play in early childhood education, linking physical (tinana), cognitive (hinengaro) and language (kōrero) dimensions.
This article proposes the use of questioning as a strategy to foster and provoke children’s critical thinking through the medium of literacy. The art of questioning includes adults both asking questions in purposeful ways and eliciting children’s responses and questions. This strategy prompts children to make connections to prior knowledge and experiences, share perspectives, reflect on ideas and explore possible responses. This article is informed by both the author’s own research and a range of literature. Examples of questions and conversations are provided to demonstrate how critical thinking can be fostered in early childhood education settings. In this article, picture books are viewed as a valuable resource for teachers to nurture critical thinking as they can portray concepts and ideas that are meaningful and relevant for children.
As globalisation accelerates, the resulting increase in diversity within the overall population brings with it an increased responsibility to meet the needs of all children within early childhood settings. For teachers, this includes an awareness of the importance of equitable practices and the need to play an active role in creating welcoming and inclusive learning environments. A principal aspect of this is addressing deficit thinking around difference, which can operate as part of the hidden curriculum in educational settings. One significant and effective way to achieve a more equitable learning environment is through the use of critical literacy; a pedagogical approach which promotes the questioning of taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions and allows for all worldviews and ways of knowing and being to be recognised and valued. This approach sits within the theoretical framework of critical theory, which seeks to address injustices within society. This paper will examine critical literacy, primarily through the lens of Freire and other critical theorists, to examine ways teachers might adopt a more just approach to literacy practices in the classroom.
With the increasing growth of immigrant Chinese families living in New Zealand, there are an increasing number of young children who are learning two or more languages at the same time, namely their home language and the language of instruction in early childhood education settings, typically English. When the family serves the central role of supporting children’s heritage language maintenance (Wong-Fillmore, 1991), it is pertinent to study the parents’ perspectives on their child’s dual language development and the language practices that are evident in home settings. As part of a larger Master’s research with New Zealand Tertiary College that explores the support that four Chinese immigrant families provide for their children’s dual language development, this article presents a case study of one Chinese mother and how she constructs and implements their Family Language Policy (FLP) to support her children’s dual language development focusing on their heritage language maintenance.
This article is based on research carried out for my master's thesis (Winslow, 2019), which explored three- to five- year-old children’s perceptions and working theories of kindness. Literacy, in the traditional sense, was not an intended focus of this research, however, the importance of children’s ability to express the complexity of their perceptions and working theories became a central consideration for the research. What was needed was an approach to research that allowed children to express themselves within the parameters of their vocabulary, but still allowed the researcher to capture the fullness of their thinking and ideas on the rather complex topic of kindness. A case study methodology allowed the researcher to select multiple avenues of data collection. The two most important methods of data gathering were the observation and audio recording of the children’s puppet play and the conversations between the researcher and children about their puppet play. The outcome of these data gathering methods were rich and revealed dialogic conversations. The conversations became opportunities for children to discuss, share and expand on their working theories of kindness. Over the course of the research, the children became increasingly confident as puppeteers, storytellers and conversationalists. The researcher found herself as co-puppeteer and co-inquirer, rediscovering the importance of time and space for authentic conversations with children. Puppet play and conversations encouraged children and researcher to explore their perceptions and working theories together by revisiting and retelling favourite stories and characters, challenging existing ideas and building complexity over time and with practice. Puppet play also served as a mediating tool for the researcher to better understand children’s points of view on abstract concepts.
The third publication of Weaving Te Whāriki collates a number of critical reflections on the early childhood curriculum framework of Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early Childhood Curriculum (Te Whāriki) (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). This edition of Weaving Te Whāriki is preceded by publications in 2003 and 2013 edited by Joce Nuttall, which focussed on the first release of the early childhood curriculum framework in 1996, whereas Alex Gunn has joined as an editor discussing the revised curriculum document (MoE, 2017). Some key themes in this book are the prominence of the child’s voice and participation in curriculum planning in early childhood education, and children as social actors. The book also includes a close look at the discourse of the revision and a re-engagement with the theoretical perspectives underpinning Te Whāriki curriculum and teaching practice.
This book is a collection of essays, which captures the complexity of children’s literature and explores how story, language, culture, and heritage come together in children’s literature and impact on young readers. As one reads the chapters of this book, a rich and multilayered picture emerges that shows the importance of literature in developing children’s intercultural understandings.
The Boy on the Beach by Vivian Gussin Paley is an exceptional book that takes a unique perspective on children’s play and makes a significant contribution to the early childhood sector, particularly in understanding children’s play from a compassionate and humane perspective. The book is written by the widely acclaimed author Vivian Gussin Paley. Paley is an experienced kindergarten teacher and an early childhood education researcher, particularly well known for her exploration of the field of storytelling and fantasy play.
Amy Thynne, Chelsea Bracefield, Evelyn Davis, Fiona Woodgate, Maxine Dyer, Pearl D'Silva, Rachel Winslow, Shu-Yen Law, Sophia Li.