An exploratory study of emergent literacy development as demonstrated through play



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Texas Tech University


The purpose of this study was to explore the use of play as a resource for examining children's emergent literacy development. Specifically the study addressed the following questions:

  1. What types of emergent literacy demonstrations do children exhibit while playing in a literacy-enhanced environment?
  2. What do these demonstrations reveal about children's knowledge of literacy?

The study took place in my pre-kindergarten classroom, which is a part of the kids-day-out program of a Southern Baptist church in the southwestern Untied States. The classroom consisted of 10 four-and five-year- old children who were due to start kindergarten in the fall of 1997. The class followed a daily schedule which included a seventy-five minute play period. My observations focused on one five-year-old girl who played in a variety of centers.

This is a participant observation study of a prekindergarten child during play in literacy-enhanced centers. Data were collected using the participant observation guidelines of Bogden and Biklen (1982), Glesne and Peshkin (1992), Lincoln and Guba (1985), and Hatch (1995). Descriptive data were recorded through the use of field notes and videotaping. Additional data included a collection of participant artifacts and informal interviews. The data were analyzed using the constant comparison method as described by Bogdan and Biklen (1982).

This study adds to the research base in the area of emergent literacy assessment using play. This study offers implications for practitioners about the importance of including literacy-enhanced play centers and time to play in the classroom. This study also describes how play observations are a useful resource for assessing a child's knowledge of the functions and concepts of print. Further, this study demonstrates how some children more clearly demonstrate their emerging literacy abilities in less structured, authentic settings than on more structured literacy assessments.