Littering the Environment

Jan 28, 2013 by

Littering the Environment

By Shara Lawrence-Weiss

While doing research on the term “emergent literacy” I came across a description put up by the Lewis-Clark State College. One of the things I found interesting was this portion:

Research has shown that it is possible to accent and highlight literacy activities in a preschool classroom by “littering the environment with print” (Harste, Burke, & Woodward, 1984, p. 43). This is in contrast to the traditional classroom where reading and writing are directly taught in a formal setting. Researchers in Harste’s study brought the book corner to the center of the room and added a writing table with pencils, pads of paper, envelopes, and stamps. By doing this they found that children spent 3 to 10 times the amount of time they normally did in direct reading and writing activities…

{Please note: I am not against a formal reading setting. I’m writing this from the perspective of a parent, who wishes to provide early learning and supplemental offerings at home.}

I’ve never heard the phrase “littering the environment with print” before but after reading that I realized: this is something I’ve written about numerous times on my Early Childhood site. I’ve written about how we sprinkle books and literacy related items around our home, as a natural part of our environment. That certainly does seem to affect my children in a positive way.

Here’s something else I recently started doing: we moved into a new home and I set up a kid’s corner for my children. I placed a bookshelf (I took some of the books from the bedroom bookshelves, to use here) in the space along with other things: a TV and Wii, couch, trampoline, fruit/veggie stand toy, a pet fish, scooters to ride, and a shoe rack. I also placed paper and crayons/pencils in the area. I put more paper, crayons and writing items on the kitchen table, near their kid’s corner. I never have to instruct them to go and write, draw, color or create. They do it all on their own, throughout the day, at will. They invite me over to help them, when needed.

Kid's Corner

Kid's Corner 2

Sometimes I place books on the table, along with their writing items. It’s been interesting to watch them flip through and then choose to color a picture or write words down, based on the book they looked at. My son usually just colors a picture, as he’s not reading or writing yet (age four). My 6 year old daughter (who attends part day Kindergarten at school) loves to write words, after looking at a book. She often asks for my help with spelling the words. We sound them out together and then she writes them down.

One of the things I have noticed, since starting up the kid’s area and placing things on the table is this: my daughter writes lots of notes for her neighborhood friend. She wonders over to the table and writes “I miss you!” or “Please come play soon” or “I hope you are better now.” Etc. Then she delivers them to her friend’s door. I never instructed her to write notes for her friend, although she has watched me write notes for people many times, over the years. She is copying the behavior, I suppose…

I will also note: I have stacks and stacks of pictures from my kids, now, after creating this section and allowing them to use it at will. I need to provide a place to put them all so they know I value the work that went into the drawings or notes. I think I’ll attach a cork board (or one of Dr. Sally’s art nets) to the kid’s corner wall, where we can pin the pictures and rotate them out.

More to come…

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  1. Ava

    Shara love the article and your new home:)! I liked how you sprinkled things all around!
    Its so funny that I did all of that when R was small without knowing what its called;)
    I also sprinkle toys and feelings things(lol)

    • Thanks, Ava. Good to know! I did a lot of this with my first son, too (now 14) but like you, I didn’t know what it was called. It just made sense to offer him various educational activities to enhance learning. I love that you sprinkle around “feelings” things too. Of course you do! Like Kimochis Dolls…I love those.

  2. Here I am, person number three, who had fun “sprinkling” learning fun around my house, I also set up reading and writing corners and filled them with all kinds of books, papers, markers, crayons, and more. With the right kind of supplies available, inborn curiosity combined with adult-modeling take right over. Thank you, Shara, for suggesting so many creative ways to foster language development in young children.

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