Literacy Beginnings – A Prekindergarten Handbook

Just one page into Fountas and Pinnell’s new book, Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook, I turned to my husband and said, “There’s a good chance I’m going to like any book that starts a discussion of early literacy with a diagram of a classroom that includes things like a sensory table, art supplies, and a dramatic play corner.”

Before breaking down some of the specific practices for effectively promoting early literacy, Fountas and Pinnell present an overall picture of a developmentally appropriate, literacy rich classroom.  (Practicing what they preach, they’re teaching the reader about literacy within a holistic, meaningful framework.)  More than teaching about isolated activities and skills, they emphasize a culture of literacy and building meaningful experiences within a context of a high quality early childhood education environment.  There are suggestions and ideas, not just for building a strong foundation in literacy, but also for organizing your program’s schedule and procedures.

After building the context of an overall quality environment, the authors begin to address building a strong foundation in literacy by emphasizing the development of skills like speaking and listening, vocabulary building, and phonemic awareness in intentional and meaningful ways.

The next two sections focus on emergent readers and writers.  While these sections discuss the progression of an emergent reader/writer and the opportunities for supporting that growth, I really appreciated the clear emphasis on wonder and thought.  Whether it’s capitalizing on the eager curiosity surrounding print or spending the time to think about what’s being read and building connections, this accentuation takes early literacy out of the performance category and back to its real purpose: communicating ideas.

As the authors addressed learning about letters, sounds, and words, I was glad to see they encourage a playful, conversational style of instruction, but also point out the need for very brief mini-lessons to allow for systematic instruction.  The activities and games in this section are fantastic for making these concepts playful and hands-on!

Assessment is a critical element in literacy education as well, serving to inform the learning process.  Whether in the form of informal observations and work collection or formal systematic assessments, making and collecting assessments helps parents and teachers recognize the learning that’s taking place, and plan accurately for future experiences.  For those implementing a play-based approach, effective use of assessments also serves to establish that your program is more than a free-for-all, and that valuable learning is taking place.  This book shows you what to look for, how to collect it, and how to use it to scaffold new learning.

Also included in this wonderful resource is The Continuum of Literacy Learning for PreK Children from Fountas & Pinnell’s previous work, giving you an idea of the typical progress that a young child will make during the preK years, and allowing you to monitor this progress and communicate that growth with parents and other teachers.

Here are a few other highlights:

  • A sixteen page full-color section with vivid examples of a well-prepared preK room as well as emergent writing samples.  It brings the preK classroom to life, showing with vibrant detail the way each area of the classroom can invite and engage children in learning experiences.
  • A quick reference summary outlined at the end of each chapter to aid in retention, as well as in tracking down key information when you return to the book as a reference after the initial read. 
  • I love the focus on foundation skills, as well as the emphasis on comprehension and meaning, and the encouragement to incorporate joy and play within the delivery system. 
  • It’s philosophically sound, grounded in research, and presented in a straight-forward descriptive way.
  • The entire book is filled with examples comprised of  concise explanations, familiar scenarios, and conversation prompts that make the information easily applicable in your own classroom.

If that sounds like a lot of valuable information in one book (which it is) you won’t believe what comes in the appendices.  It’s like a second resource book!  I’ll be sharing a bit about what you’ll find there, as well as how you can win a copy of this fabulous book on Friday.  See you then!

(In the meantime, you may also want to check out the Literacy Beginnings book study blog party that’s already underway atPreK pages!)

Have you read Literacy Beginnings yet?  What is your favorite aspect of the book?



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