5.1 Introduction

Throughout this text, we use the nest as an analogy for reflecting on the multitude of factors that support a child’s emerging literacy skills. Reflecting on this analogy, we recognize each nest is influenced by the larger ecosystem in which it is constructed. Diverse species of eagles, owls, pigeons, and penguins thrive in uniquely different habitats and use the available natural resources to build viable shelters. Similarly, early childhood educators work in diverse and complex learning environments. Early education contexts include (but are not limited to) early intervention settings that occur with young children and families in the home, early care centers serving children and families from birth through age five, and Early Head Start and Head Start programs located within public and private schools. The physical spaces early educators and children occupy greatly influence their interactions, behaviors, and collective literacy experiences. Referred to as the ecology of the classroom (Reutzel & Jones, 2013) each early learning context is as richly varied as the birds’ environmental habitats noted above. Early educators play a central role in strategically drawing upon and enriching each learning context to promote young children’s literacy development and engagement.

Intentionally designed environments encourage children to experiment with a variety of materials, prompt rich dialogs between children and educators, and challenge children to use their emerging oral language, reading, and writing skills for a variety of purposes. Classroom environments need to be strategically arranged to increase the likelihood that rich literacy interactions will occur. Consider the exchange between Prashant, Desmond, and Ms. Elise in the vignette at the beginning of this chapter. The class recipe book, labeled cooking containers, writing materials, and language exchanges worked in complementary ways to inspire and extend the literacy rich play opportunity. When early educators pause to identify the environmental factors influencing particular learning contexts, opportunities for enriching young children’s literacy spaces are revealed. This chapter prepares educators to intentionally construct classroom environments to enhance children’s emerging literacies.

This chapter will enable each student to:

Illustration of a bird's nest  Discover how early learning environments influence children’s emergent literacy experiences.

illustration of a branch  Determine the ways in which educators use constructivist, sociocultural, and ecological perspectives to shape literacy rich play experiences.

Illustration of a bird's nest  Explore the intentional design and evaluation of rich literacy environments to enhance children’s literacy experiences’

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The Early Literacy Journey: Supporting and Celebrating Young Learners Copyright © 2024 by Sandra Carrie Garvey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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