Chapter 5: The Importance of the Literacy Environment

“When we observe the behaviors of people, we notice that what they do is markedly influenced by where they are.”

Kounin & Sherman, 1979, p. 145

Opening Vignette: Prashant’s Naan

Four-year-old Prashant pulls a class recipe book from a shelf in the kitchen area that has a couple of recipe boxes, spice jars, and other photo and print-rich recipe books for the children to use. Recently, Prashant shared his family’s recipe for making naan, an Indian flatbread, with his class. Today, he uses the class recipe book to begin his play in the home environment center. He carries the recipe book to the stove singing to himself, “Naan, naan, naan.” He sifts through the pages of recipes with pictures of his friends enjoying their favorite foods until he finds the recipe he is looking for. On his recipe page, Prashant included a hand drawing of his family eating naan together at home. Pointing to text at the top left he says, “First, I have to put in flour.” He pauses reading to dip a measuring cup into a canister with a picture of wheat and the word “flour” taped to the outside. He gestures, dumping two scoops of flour into a bowl on the counter. He returns to the book and reads, “Then, I have to put in the water.” Prashant reaches for an empty pitcher and pours water into the bowl. Prashant reads again from the book and adds “yogurt” to the bowl. He picks up a spoon and begins stirring the ingredients in the pot. Then, Prashant scoops the mix into a pan on the stove singing, “Cook, cook, cook.”

Prashant pulls naan from the stove top and places the pan on the table. Prashant reaches into a small block basket on the shelf and puts blocks on the tray. Taking the tray to the table he calls out, “Naan for sale, come have a piece of naan!” Desmond, a 4 ½ year old, hears Prashant’s invitation and sits down at the table near the kitchen area. Desmond says, “I would like to buy a piece of naan. What kind of naan do you have?”

Miss Elise, the instructional assistant who was documenting Prashant’s play episode nearby, joins in the play prompting, “Oh, I think your customer might need a menu to help him decide what kind of naan he would like to order.” Taking Miss Elise’s suggestion, Prashant picks up a clipboard hanging on a hook next to the table and a marker and begins to write three strings of letter-like symbols across the page. As Prashant writes, Desmond says, “I hope he has the butter kind.” Prashant hands the clipboard to Desmond and says, “We have garlic and plain naan with butter. What kind would you like?”

Miss Elise moves on to observe other children in the class as the two boys continue to enact Prashant’s play episode making naan.

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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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