CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 9 . . . . November 3, 2017
This practical book provides an overview of how to establish and sustain a successful literacy program in a kindergarten classroom. Authors Rog and Galloway provide a snapshot of useful practices that could be beneficial to all kindergarten teachers. The book discusses: oral language development, reading to and by children, shared and guided reading, reading to write and writing to learn, finding the "play" in word play, and celebrating diversity and meeting the needs of all learners.
Throughout the text, the authors reference an abundance of current research evidence and personal experiences. In addition, Reading, Writing, Playing, Learning includes testimonies and stories from other kindergarten teachers who have endured challenges and successes when endeavoring to apply these practices in their own classrooms. These stories balance the copious research-based information and allow for the reader to foresee potential challenges that may come with applying these practices as well as providing strategies to successfully overcome them. Embedded throughout each chapter are also ideas of original activities and routines, such as "bumblebee conferences". In the final chapter of the book, they also address diversity. Diversity exists culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically. As diversity within schools continues to grow, teachers must recognize the certain implications that this may have on literacy instruction. The authors provide a list of recommended strategies for honouring families from diverse cultural backgrounds and suggestions on how to help our most vulnerable learners.
Overall, Rog and Galloway make the case for a balance between reading, writing, playing, and learning. Each of these vital components has its own chapter explaining why it is essential (using research evidence), various ways to reach each child, and approaches for how each can be most effectively incorporated into daily routines without getting stale (often backed up by real-life stories). For example, one chapter focuses on shared and guided writing. In this chapter, the authors refer to whole class and small group lessons, provide ideas of various games that could be played with students, explain how to choose texts for these purposes, and give an example of what one week of shared reading would look like. They make clear not only how to teach guided reading and writing but also how to assess students, how to match texts and readers, and break down how guided reading routines would look for readers at different stages: emergent or early. The thoroughness of each chapter is outstanding.
It is evident throughout Reading, Writing, Playing, Learning: Finding the Sweet Spots in Kindergarten Literacy that these literacy "sweet spots" involve maximizing student learning while simultaneously making it possible for teachers to reach all children. Much of the research cited in this book comes from well-known names, such as the work of Marie Clay, Reggio Emilio, and the inventors of "Daily 5," Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. This book would be particularly advantageous for beginning kindergarten teachers as it encapsulates a great deal of today's research-based strategies for teaching literacy in a summarized, practical way that makes implementing these various strategies achievable for all. For kindergarten teachers who are already familiar with the knowledge from these researchers, they may find the information repetitive but will likely take away something new to try out or find a new way to improve what they are already doing in their existing classroom in order to reach that literacy "sweet spot". The ideas in Reading, Writing, Playing, Learning make a balanced literacy approach attainable in any kindergarten classroom. At the heart of this outstanding book is the authors' dedication to ensuring that kindergarten classrooms are places where children simultaneously learn, grow, and play. Child-centered learning and teacher-guided instruction are at the core of all recommended practices mentioned in the book.
Andrea Boyd is an early years educator in Winnipeg, MB.