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Increasing the literacy behaviors of preschool children through environmental modification and teacher mediation.

Abstract. Emergent literacy research states that young children learn about reading and writing through experiences with oral and written language. The purpose of this study was to examine the frequency with which individual preschool children voluntarily engaged in literacy behaviors during free choice in the classroom. The sample consisted of nine preschool children from low-income families enrolled in three classrooms in an urban preschool program. The classroom environment was assessed using the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO; Smith, Dickinson, Sangeorge, & Anastasopoulos, 2002), which provides information on how well the classroom environment supports early literacy development. Literacy behaviors were measured during center time, a period when children are allowed to choose their activities. Intervention consisted of 1) adding literacy props to centers based on the needs identified by the ELLCO and 2) a teacher mediation intervention. Results were consistent with previous studies in that the addition of literacy props, paired with teacher mediation, led to an increase in literacy behaviors among preschool children.

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Many children from low-income families have fewer experiences with reading and writing at home than children from middleclass families (Dickinson & Snow, 1987; Washington, 2001; Whitehurst et al., 1994). Therefore, they enter school with limited knowledge in emergent literacy, which can lead to future problems with conventional reading and writing (Justice, Chow, Capellini, Flanigan, & Colton, 2003; Whitehurst et al., 1994). The term emergent literacy was introduced by Marie Clay to describe the behaviors seen in young children when they use books and writing materials to imitate reading and writing activities (Johnson, 1999). Emergent literacy development can be nourished through social interactions with caring adults and exposure to literacy materials (Sulzby & Teale, 1991). High-quality preschool programs can assist at-risk children by providing them with meaningful literacy experiences within a print-rich environment.

One way to provide at-risk children with meaningful literacy experiences is through play (Yaden, Rowe, & MacGillivray, 1999). Adding literacy props to children's play environments can significantly increase literacy behaviors during play (Morrow & Rand, 1991; Neuman & Roskos, 1993; Yaden et al., 1999). Although many studies have documented the effects of literacy props on play behaviors, few researchers have studied the specific literacy behaviors of individual children. In addition, little is known about how play-based emergent literacy interventions affect the behaviors of individual preschool children.

Justification

On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. A major goal of this act is to decrease the achievement gaps between different groups of children (Blaustein, 2005). One component of NCLB is the development of the Early Reading First Program. Through this program, the federal government provides funding for preschools and early childhood programs serving children ages 3 through 5 from low-income families to support the development of pre-reading skills. The support of these early childhood programs is intended to help attain one of the goals set forth in NCLB--that every child learns to read on grade level by 3rd grade (Kauerz, 2002).

One concern expressed by early childhood educators regarding NCLB is that with increasingly higher expectations in reading skills for children in kindergarten, teachers in preschool programs will revert to using developmentally inappropriate practices in order to push children to learn how to read (Blaustein, 2005). According to the joint position statement by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (1998), preschool classrooms should be print-rich environments that "provide opportunities for children to see and use written language for a variety of purposes, with teachers drawing children's attention to specific letters and words" (p. 3). Although they suggest some teacher-guided activities that promote phonemic awareness, the authors state that children should be given opportunities to explore literacy in meaningful contexts, such as play.

Beginning reading skills are gaining more recognition as parents, educators, and politicians have pushed for strategies to help children become successful readers. Many acknowledge that reading and writing skills develop before children enter school; consequently, interventions should begin early in order to decrease reading difficulties with school-age children (Blaustein, 2005; Watkins & Bunce, 1996; Whitehurst et al., 1994). Supporting the development of preschool children's emergent literacy skills is expected to help them become more successful future readers and writers (IRA & NAEYC, 1998; National Early Literacy Panel, 2005).

One evidence-based approach to supporting emergent literacy skills is literacy-related play. Manipulating classroom environments can encourage literacy-related play, which results in an increase in children's emergent literacy knowledge (Justice & Pullen, 2003). Literacy-related play is a practical and meaningful way for teachers to support preschool children's literacy development.

The purpose of this study was to determine if the addition of literacy props to the play environment, paired with teacher mediation, would have an effect on individual children's literacy behaviors.

Method

Setting

The study took place in a preschool program in an urban public school system in the southern United States that served 3- to 5-year-olds. Data were collected during the second half of the school year. Most children came from low-income families and paid no tuition, while other families paid tuition based on income and family size. The program was based on developmentally appropriate practices and funded by the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Act (TANF), state revenue, and tuition. The preschool operated during normal school hours. Three classrooms were used for this study, each containing 20 children, a teacher, and a teacher assistant. Teachers used a state-mandated curriculum that included standards for preschool-age children.

Classrooms varied by the type of interest centers and materials. Each classroom contained the following learning centers: housekeeping, reading, science, math/ puzzles, computer, writing, and blocks. In addition to the previous centers, Classroom One also had an art center, sand table, and a quiet area; Classroom Two had a listening center; and Classroom Three had a sand table, puppet center, and a listening center. Center time is a child-initiated period in which children are able to freely choose the area where they would like to play and the length of time they stay in an area. Each teacher's classroom schedule included at least one 60-minute block of time for children to play in centers. During center time, one teacher usually did either a small-group activity or an individual assessment, while the teacher assistant monitored centers and interacted with the children. At other times during center time, teachers would work on classroom tasks or paperwork while the teacher assistants monitored children.

Participants

The participants in this study were nine African American preschool children from low-income families. They were between the ages of 4 years, 7 months and 5 years, 5 months at the beginning of the study. The criteria for selecting participants was children who had good attendance and were typically developing based on scores from the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: A Parent-Completed, Child-Monitoring System (Bricker & Squires, 1999). Three children who met the criteria were randomly selected from each of the three classes. Participants in Classroom One were Hesiki (male; 4 years, 11 months), Zoe (female; 4 years, 10 months), and Kellis (female; 4 years, 8 months). Participants in Classroom Two were Steven (male; 5 years, 3 months), Jaylon (male; 4 years, 6 months), and Michelle (female; 4 years, 9 months). Participants in Classroom Three were Alton (male; 4 years, 9 months), James (male; 5 years, 4 months), and Joy (female; 5 years, 2 months). The mean age of participants was 4 years and 11 months.

Environmental Assessment

The Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO; Smith et al., 2002) was designed to assess the literacy environment of preschool through 3rd-grade classrooms. According to the authors, it is for use by teachers and administrators to examine ways to improve literacy programs. This assessment information was used to evaluate each classroom and to determine which literacy-related materials should be added. Each classroom was assessed using the ELLCO during baseline (see Table 1).

The ELLCO consists of three parts: the Literacy Environment Checklist, the Classroom Observation and Teacher Interview, and the Literacy Activities Rating Scale. The Literacy Environment Checklist examines how the classroom environment is designed to support reading and writing. It contains yes or no questions about the environment and questions about the quantity of materials. Answers recorded as "yes" are given a score of 1 and "no" answers are given a score of 0. For questions examining quantity, the scores range from 0 to 3. For example, for the question regarding the quantity of nonfiction books in the classroom, if a classroom has zero nonfiction books it would be scored as 0, between one and two nonfiction books would be scored as 1, three to five nonfiction books would be scored as 2, and six or more nonfiction books would be scored as 3. The Literacy Environment Checklist was the main part of the ELLCO used to guide how the classroom environments were modified. The highest total possible score is 41.

The Classroom Observation focuses on literacy instruction. The rating scale contains 14 items that are divided into two categories: General Classroom Environment (items 1-7) and Language, Literacy, and Curriculum (items 8-14). The rating scale consists of a Likert-type scale (1-5), with 5 representing exemplary/strong evidence, 3 representing basic/some evidence, and 1 representing deficient/minimal evidence. The teacher interview is conducted after the classroom observation to clarify necessary items on the observation rating scale. The highest total possible score is 60.

The last component of the ELLCO is the Literacy Activities Rating Scale, which is used to assess the frequency and duration of nine literacy behaviors. The behaviors are divided into 2 categories, Book Reading and Writing. Items are scored as yes (1) or no (0). Additional items related to duration and frequency are scored with a scale ranging from 0 to 2, with 2 representing the highest frequency or duration. Some of the literacy behaviors are actions taken by the teacher and some are actions taken by the students. The highest total possible score for the Literacy Activities Rating Scale is 13.

Interobserver Agreement

Interobserver agreement was calculated for 100 percent of the ELLCO assessments. Environmental raters included an undergraduate student and two graduate students who were knowledgeable in early childhood practices and familiar with the ELLCO. Agreement was calculated item-by-item by dividing the smaller score by the larger score, averaging items, and multiplying by 100 percent. Inter-observer agreement was calculated using scores from all parts of the ELLCO. Inter-observer agreement was 94 percent (range, 88-100 percent) for Classroom One, 96 percent (range, 93-100 percent) for Classroom Two, and 96 percent (range, 88-100 percent) for Classroom Three.

Behavior Definitions

Observable emergent literacy behaviors were taken from the ELLCO Literacy Activities Rating Scale. Literacy activities on the ELLCO are divided into two areas: book reading and writing. Literacy behaviors are defined as actions related to reading, writing, and letter concepts. Behavior definitions for literacy behaviors are as follows: 1) Looking at a book is when a child's eyes are focused on some aspect of the book. The book does not have to be opened. 2) Listening to a book is when a child is listening to a book being read by an adult, on a computer, or on a tape recorder. The child must look at the book at some point during the reading to be considered as listening to the book. 3) Looking at letters or words in the environment includes a child looking at displays, signs, other children's writing, or an adult's writing. 4) Writing with or without a template includes the child writing independently, tracing letters, using stencils, and copying letters or words. Children's writing must resemble letter-like forms. 5) Manipulating a puzzle or game that includes words or letters is when the child is touching and looking at the pieces of the puzzle or game. The child is attempting to complete a task. Some activities include magnet letters, letter stamps, sponge letters, and blocks with letters. 6) Looking at another person writing is when a child's eyes are looking in the direction of the paper or material on which the person is writing. The person may be a child or adult. Looking only at the person's face while he or she is writing would not apply. A child was recorded as not engaged when he or she was not demonstrating any of the above categories of literacy behaviors.

Experimental Design

A single-subject research design, using a momentary time sampling format, was used to collect data. Single-subject designs are most useful in designs measuring a specific behavior of an individual. The goal of single-subject designs is often to enhance the functioning of the individual by targeting a specific area (Alberto & Troutman, 2006). Single-subject designs require the measurement of behaviors during a baseline condition and again when an intervention is applied. When intervention results in enhanced functioning, an observable and measurable improvement in functioning, it is considered to have clinical significance (Alberto & Troutman, 2006).

Multiple-baseline designs measure the impact of intervention using cohorts. In this study, each classroom represents a separate cohort. One benefit of using a multiple baseline design is that withdrawal of treatment is not necessary in order to demonstrate experimental control. Experimental control is demonstrated by implementing the intervention across settings at different periods in time and receiving the same outcome (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 1987). It is not uncommon for the length of data collection to be variable across conditions as well as classrooms as intervention is introduced once a stable pattern of behavior is observed. Additionally, data are collected during an intervention until a stable pattern of behavior is observed (Kazdin, 1982).

In this study, a momentary time sample was used to provide an approximation of the frequency that each child engaged in a literacy behavior during baseline and intervention. The limitation of using a momentary time sample is that observers do not record each occurrence of the targeted behavior; they only record the behavior observed at the end of a fixed interval (Kazdin, 1982).

Observation System

Observers were graduate students who were familiar with momentary time sampling. Observers were trained using written instructions, practice sessions, and feedback. The observers recorded literacy behaviors at five-minute intervals during a 30-minute period during free-choice center time on a daily basis. Observers sat or stood in low-intrusive areas of the classroom while they collected data, although it was sometimes necessary for them to walk to various areas of the classroom to accurately record the target literacy behaviors. Observers' interaction with children in the class was minimal. When recording writing behaviors of a child, observers sometimes asked the child what he or she was doing before recording a score in order to distinguish between writing and drawing; most of the time, there was a clear distinction between writing and drawing. Observers waited five seconds before recording a behavior. If the observed child was engaged in literacy behaviors at the beginning of the observation but stopped engaging in that behavior during the five seconds, it was recorded as not engaged. If the observed child began engaging in a literacy behavior during the initial five seconds and continued the behavior for five seconds, then the literacy behavior was recorded. All literacy behaviors had to be observed for at least five seconds before they were recorded.

Interobserver Agreement

Interobserver agreement was addressed by sampling the sessions and dually coding 23 percent of the observation sessions. Agreements occurred when two observers recorded the same literacy behavior of a child for a specific interval. Disagreements occurred when two observers did not record the same literacy behavior of a child for a specific interval. The formula (agreements/[agreements + disagreements] x 100) was used to calculate interobserver agreement (Alberto & Troutman, 2006). The overall interobserver reliability was 94 percent (range, 83-100 percent). It is recommended that interobserver agreement be at least 80 percent in order for the method of data collection to be considered reliable (Kazdin, 1982).

Experimental Conditions

Baseline. During baseline, teachers were instructed to maintain the current physical arrangement of the classroom. Teachers were given no instructions about their teaching behaviors, and they followed the normal classroom routine. During center time, observers recorded the literacy behaviors of each child, using a momentary time sample until a stable pattern of behavior was observed (Kazdin, 1982). Baseline data were used to identify the specific literacy behaviors to target during intervention. During baseline conditions, no children in Classroom One were recorded as looking at a book, listening to a book, or looking at a person writing; no children in Classroom Two were recorded as looking at a book or listening to a book; and no children in Classroom Three were recorded as looking at a book, listening to a book, writing, or looking at a person writing.

Environmental Modification and Teacher Mediation Intervention. Results from the ELLCO Literacy Environment Check and children's baseline literacy behaviors were used to determine environmental modifications that would support literacy. Literacy props (i.e., books, writing materials, toys with printed words) were added to various centers in each classroom. Teachers introduced and modeled the use of literacy props during whole-group time on the day that they were added to centers. During environmental modification, no furniture was moved; the same floor arrangements in the classrooms were maintained.

In Classroom One, literacy props were added to the math/puzzle center, the writing center, and the housekeeping center (see Table 2). The table used for the science center was divided into two parts in order to accommodate a listening center. As evident by the ELLCO Literacy Environment Checklist, Classroom One already had books in the block and housekeeping centers.

In Classroom Two, literacy props were added to the math/puzzle center, the writing center, and the housekeeping center (see Table 2). Books were added to the block and the housekeeping centers, as recommended by the ELLCO. Puzzles were moved from the writing center to the math center.

In Classroom Three, literacy props were added to the math/puzzle center, the writing center, and the housekeeping center (see Table 2). Books were added to the block, science, and housekeeping centers. During baseline, only one pillow was located in the reading center. Another pillow was added to the reading center, as recommended by the Literacy Environment Checklist.

During baseline, no subjects were recorded as looking at a book. Based upon this finding, play "reading glasses" were added to the reading center in each classroom to encourage children to "read" books in the reading center. Materials in the writing center and housekeeping center were kept in containers on a shelf or table in the designated center. The classroom teachers introduced new literacy props and made children aware of other environment modifications before center time on the first day of intervention.

In addition to making environmental modifications, teachers were instructed to continue to provide guidance and support to children during centers. However, teacher behaviors were only slightly modified by identifying the frequency that teachers supported literacy behaviors during centers and the method teachers used while supporting children's use of literacy during play. Four target centers were selected for each classroom. Three target centers were selected by choosing the centers that had the highest number of new literacy props; these centers were the writing center, the housekeeping center, and the puzzle center. The reading center also was selected as a target center in each class, based upon baseline data in which no participant was recorded as looking at a book. A schedule was designed for each classroom teacher to identify which two out of the four centers that she was to target each day. Teachers were encouraged to follow the schedule and implement intervention daily, regardless of the presence of researchers.

While teachers were in a target center, they supported the use of literacy props during play. Each teacher was instructed to engage in the following teacher-mediated behaviors while in a target center to support the use of literacy during play:

1. Invite children to center (e.g., "Would you like to do this puzzle with me?")

2. Model use of literacy prop

3. Encourage children to use prop (e.g., "Can you find some foods in the paper that we should add to our grocery list?")

4. Give praise for children within close proximity who engage in a literacy behavior (e.g., "I like how you wrote the word that goes with your picture.")

Teachers were trained by reviewing suggested prompts for each center. Teachers were to model the use of a literacy prop by showing children appropriate ways to use the props. For example, teachers were shown how word cards in the writing center could be used by children to play a guessing game in addition to serving as a writing prompt. Each teacher received notecards that included the four specific teacher behaviors and the weekly schedule for target centers. During intervention, it was sometimes necessary for researchers to coach a teacher by reminding her of a specific teacher behavior that she did not display. Coaching occurred both during and after observations.

Using a checklist for the teacher-mediated behaviors (listed above), the observer checked that teacher mediation was implemented as written. To ensure treatment integrity, fidelity checks were conducted during each observation using the checklist (Cooper et al., 1987). Treatment integrity refers to the consistent implementation of teacher mediation behaviors across teachers. Fidelity was measured by dividing the number of observed behaviors of the teacher by the total number of behaviors. The desired percentage of implementation was at least 80 percent for each teacher. Teacher One implemented the intervention with 95 percent accuracy, Teacher Two implemented intervention with 93 percent accuracy, and Teacher Three implemented intervention with 90 percent accuracy.

Results

The addition of literacy props and teacher mediation led to an increase in literacy behaviors among children during play, which is consistent with previous research (Christie & Enz, 1992; Morrow & Rand, 1991; Neuman & Roskos, 1993). In Classroom One, the average percent of literacy behaviors among the three participants was 13 percent (range, 10-17 percent) during baseline. In Classroom Two, the average percent of literacy behaviors among the three participants was 20 percent (range, 8-39 percent) during baseline. In Classroom Three, the average percent of literacy behaviors among the three participants was 7 percent (range, 0-13 percent) during baseline.

Following intervention, which consisted of environmental modification and teacher mediation, each classroom showed an increase in the average intervals of literacy behaviors (see Figure 1). In Classroom One, the average number of observed literacy behaviors across participants increased from 13 percent during baseline to 52 percent (range, 44-68 percent) during intervention. The fourth observation point in Classroom One during baseline was based on one child's average, due to the absence of the other two participants. In Classroom Two, the average number of literacy behaviors across participants increased from 20 percent during baseline to 64 percent (range, 45-88 percent) during intervention (see discussion section for explanation of second observation point). In Classroom Three, the average number of observed literacy behaviors across participants increased from 7 percent during baseline to 58 percent (range, 39-76 percent) during intervention.

In each classroom, all of the participating children showed an increase in literacy behaviors following intervention. In Classroom One, Hesiki's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 11 percent (range, 0-17 percent) during baseline to 42 percent (range, 0-67 percent) during intervention. He demonstrated an increase in engagement within all types of literacy behaviors. Zoe's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 17 percent (range, 0-33 percent) during baseline to 68 percent (range, 33-100 percent). She demonstrated an increase in engagement within four out of six types of literacy behaviors. Kellis' engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 10 percent (range, 0-33 percent) during baseline to 44 percent (range, 33-100 percent) during intervention. She demonstrated an increase in engagement within four out of six types of literacy behaviors. The average percent of increase for Classroom One was 39 percent (range, 31-51 percent).

In Classroom Two, Steven's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 14 percent (range, 0-50 percent) during baseline to 45 percent (range, 0-83 percent) during intervention. He demonstrated an increase in engagement within five out of six types of literacy behaviors. Jaylon's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 38 percent (range, 0-100 percent) during baseline to 88 percent (range, 67-100 percent) during intervention. He demonstrated an increase in engagement within three out of six types of literacy behaviors. Michelle's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 8 percent (range, 0-33 percent) during baseline to 61 percent (range, 33-100 percent) during intervention. She demonstrated an increase in engagement within all types of literacy behaviors. The average percent of increase for Classroom Two was 45 percent (range, 31-53 percent).

In Classroom Three, Alton's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 13 percent (range, 0-33 percent) during baseline to 39 percent (range, 33-50 percent) during intervention. He demonstrated an increase in engagement within three out of six types of literacy behaviors. James' engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 8 percent (range, 0-25 percent) during baseline to 58 percent (range, 50-67 percent) during intervention. He demonstrated an increase in engagement within two out of six types of literacy behaviors. Joy's engagement in literacy behaviors increased from 0 percent during baseline to 76 percent (range, 60-100 percent) during intervention. She demonstrated an increase in engagement within all six types of literacy behaviors. Joy demonstrated the greatest change in behavior among all participants. The average percent of increase for Classroom Three was 51 percent (range, 26-76 percent).

The frequency of specific types of literacy behaviors varied across classrooms and participants (Table 2). In Classroom One, the most observed literacy behavior during baseline conditions and intervention was manipulating a puzzle/game with words or letters (7 percent and 19 percent, respectively). In Classroom Two, the most frequently observed literacy behavior among participants during baseline was looking at words or letters in the environment (11 percent). During intervention, the most frequently observed literacy behavior among participants in Classroom Two was manipulating a puzzle/game with words or letters (27 percent). In Classroom Three, the most frequently observed literacy behavior among participants during baseline was manipulating a puzzle/game with words or letters (5 percent). During intervention, the most frequently observed literacy behavior among participants in Classroom Three was looking at words/letters in the environment (26 percent).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Averages in the frequency of specific types of literacy behaviors increased during intervention across classrooms. During baseline, no children were observed looking at a book, listening to a book, or looking at a person writing. The most observed literacy behavior during intervention was manipulating a puzzle or game that includes letters of words. The least observed behavior during intervention was looking at a person writing. The frequency that participants were not engaged in literacy behaviors decreased by 46 percent during intervention. As noted previously, although each participant increased his or her overall frequency of literacy behaviors, all the individual participants did not increase the frequency of engagement in each type of literacy behaviors.

Discussion

In this study, literacy props, along with teacher mediation, led to an increase in literacy behaviors in preschool children. The ELLCO scores showed that during baseline, each of the three participating classrooms lacked some of the recommended literacy materials. When the recommended literacy materials were added and teachers became more supportive of literacy play, children's literacy behaviors increased.

Scores on the ELLCO showed that each classroom had an adequate book area and selection of books. Each classroom contained more than 26 books that varied in length, subject, structure, and cultural representation. However, children in each classroom were not using the reading center. During baseline, no participants were observed looking at a book. This suggests that preschool children may need additional materials and support, such as teacher mediation and props (e.g., play reading glasses), to increase their engagement with books. It also supports the practice of including books in various areas of the classroom other than the reading center. Although books were added to centers (e.g., in the science, block, and dramatic play centers), as recommended by the ELLCO, the books were taken from the existing class library. Therefore, books in these centers were not novel, which could have influenced children's behaviors. Two participants were never recorded as looking at a book during the study, and three participants were never recorded as listening to a book. This is of particular concern, since studies have documented the importance of story book reading in supporting emergent literacy.

The most frequently observed literacy behavior among participants was manipulating a game or puzzle with letters or words. This could be due to the high interest of preschoolers in more active activities like floor puzzles and dramatic play (as opposed to book reading and writing). The least observed literacy behavior was looking at a person write. Even though teachers modeled writing as a part of the intervention strategies, it did not usually involve large groups of children. In the participating classrooms, teachers usually modeled writing during whole-group activities and during center time with a small group of children. These observations and classroom practices suggest that looking at a person writing may be a literacy behavior that is more appropriate for preschoolers during teacher-directed activities, as opposed to child-initiated play.

Novelty of new materials may have influenced literacy behaviors in other areas. During baseline conditions, a new literacy computer program was introduced in Classroom Two between the first and second observation. This led to a high average of observed literacy behaviors for the second observation (see Figure 1). However, the average observed literacy behaviors in Classroom Two declined a few days after the new computer program was introduced. During intervention, a downward slope would have also been expected if novelty of materials were influencing literacy behaviors. A downward trend was not evident in any of the classrooms.

Although fidelity checks were implemented to control for variability among the implementation of teacher mediation strategies, certain teacher qualities were not controlled for during the study and could have influenced results. For example, such variables as tone of voice, enthusiasm, and the authenticity of praise were not controlled for across teachers. These individual differences between teachers could have influenced the quality of interactions between the teacher and children in the classroom.

Consistent with previous studies (Christie & Enz, 1992; Morrow & Rand, 1991; Neuman & Roskos, 1993), the classroom environment and teacher behaviors play a critical role in the frequency that children engage in literacy behaviors during free-choice center time. These studies mainly examined literacy materials and behaviors of children within the dramatic play center. It is important that meaningful literacy experiences are not limited to one center, as some children may not frequently choose to play in that center. This study shows that literacy materials can be incorporated into various classroom centers in order to increase opportunities for children to engage in literacy behaviors. It also gives specific materials and strategies that teachers can use when supporting literacy behaviors of preschool children during play. However, due to the small sample size, the results of this study should not be generalized to larger populations.

Implications for Practice

Previous research suggests and the findings from this study support that print-rich preschool classrooms that contain appropriate literacy props can foster emergent literacy. Teachers can use developmentally appropriate practices to implement the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act and equip preschool children with important emergent literacy skills. Free-choice center time provides teachers with an opportunity to support children's literacy development by scaffolding literacy behaviors at a level that is appropriate for each individual child. Through the use of literacy environmental rating scales, such as the ELLCO, teachers can find out how to make their classrooms more supportive of literacy. Teachers may also examine the behaviors of the children in their class to decide what literacy behaviors to target and what type of literacy props and guidance are needed to increase that behavior. By providing appropriate literacy props and teacher mediation, teachers can increase literacy-related play behavior among children, which can lead to future reading success.

Future Research

Although research has documented the influence of literacy materials with teacher support, more research is needed on the specific components of teacher mediation that best support literacy behaviors. For example, how frequently should teacher mediation occur and how invasive should it be (should teachers only extend children's literacy behaviors when they occur or cause them to occur through modeling or suggestions)? Future research also should examine the long-term benefits of literacy behaviors during play. More specifically, what knowledge and skills are gained through literacy-related play and how do they relate to future reading success?

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Angela Wayne

Cynthia F. DiCarlo

Diane C. Burts

Joan Benedict

Louisiana State University
Table 1
ELLCO Scores

 General Literacy
 Literacy Classroom Activities
 Environment Observation Scale

Classroom (41 points) (60 points) (13 points)
1 37 24 5
2 21 18 3
3 26 23 5

Table 2
Frequency of Literacy Behaviors

 Environmental
 Baseline Modification

Classroom 1 m% (range) m% (range) % of Change
 Hesiki 11 (0-17) 42 (0-67) 31
 Zoe 17 (0-33) 68 (33-100) 51
 Kellis 10 (0-33) 44 (33-100) 34

Classroom 2
 Steven 14 (0-50) 45 (0-83) 31
 Jaylon 38 (0-100) 88 (67-100) 50
 Michelle 8 (0-33) 61 (33-100) 53

Classroom 3
 Alton 13 (0-33) 39 (33-50) 26
 James 8 (0-25) 58 (50-67) 50
 Joy 0 (0-0) 76 (60-100) 76
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Author:Wayne, Angela; DiCarlo, Cynthia F.; Burts, Diane C.; Benedict, Joan
Publication:Journal of Research in Childhood Education
Date:Sep 22, 2007
Words:6087
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