Read, Play, and Learn!® meets the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Guidelines for Appropriate Curriculum and Assessment in Programs Serving Children Ages 3 Through 8.
Correlation of Read, Play, and Learn!® to NAEYC Curriculum Guidelines
1. The curriculum has an articulated description of its theoretical base that is consistent with prevailing professional opinion and research on how children learn.
Utilizing storybooks as a framework for providing highly stimulating experiences for learning, Read, Play, and Learn!® is a comprehensive curriculum, backed by a strong theoretical base, that offers a transdisciplinary, holistic approach to educating young children. Read, Play, and Learn!® allows teachers to incorporate skills training across all of the developmental domains while letting children select what is motivating to them and have fun.
The importance of play to a child’s development is well documented in the literature, and the Read, Play, and Learn!® Teacher’s Guide references this research. The philosophical underpinnings of the curriculum, based on the work of such respected researchers and theorists as Piaget, Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner, Fromberg, and Garvey, are discussed in Chapter 2 of the Teacher’s Guide. Play has numerous learning and development characteristics that can profoundly support a child’s development. Play is not only pleasurable, valued by participants, and requires their active engagement, but it also interacts in a reciprocal manner with growth across the developmental domains. Play involves making choices and directing activity, it is the practice grounds for social skills needed in adult life, it encourages freely experimenting with the various aspects of language, and it promotes growth and control in sensory and motor systems. According to Vygotsky, when engaged in play, children are functioning close to their optimal development.
Chapter 3 of the Teacher’s Guide explains how Read, Play, and Learn!® works within Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development. Drawing from early intervention research (e.g., the work of Bricker, McCollum, and others cited in the chapter), the Read, Play, and Learn!® teacher uses basic principles of interaction, scaffolding, and structured guidance for the children only as needed so that the classroom becomes a highly motivating yet challenging environment.
The Teacher’s Guide also reviews the important literature from the field of emergent literacy. Both literacy development and play involve creating, planning, shaping, sequencing, communicating, predicting, synthesizing, participating, producing, and evaluating. Both involve representations of the child’s feelings, thoughts, actions, and representations of actual and imaginary worlds. Expression of self is heightened; yet, incorporation of others’ perspectives is encouraged. Literacy development and play can provide safe boundaries to examine who one is and who one wants to be. Oral language play contributes importantly to reading and writing development. Chapter 2 references the work of noted contributors to our understandings of literacy development, including Adams, McCord, Neuman, Scarborough, Snow, and others.
Chapter 7 of the Teacher’s Guide provides a detailed review of the stages of reading development, drawing upon recognized work (including that of Clay, Hart-Hewins, Sulzby, and Teale). An understanding of the continuum of literacy development is crucial for teachers to be able to develop their own skills in observing children. Daily literacy opportunities within all areas of the curriculum and enthusiastic adult-child interactions enrich skills development and provide scaffolding to new learning.
Prevailing professional recognition of the importance of the early years to later educational, economic, and societal outcomes reinforces the importance of examining early literacy development in the home environment. A curriculum that imparts literacy experiences in the classroom and also involves families in early literacy activities may assist children in acquiring the necessary skills for later academic success. Read, Play, and Learn!® encourages ongoing dialogue with families. Chapter 8 of the Teacher’s Guide provides guidelines for developing a family involvement component, designs for family workshops, and photocopiable handouts with basic literacy information and skill-boosting suggestions for families. Each module in the curriculum also provides sample letters to send home to families on a weekly basis.
2. Curriculum content is designed to achieve long-range goals for children in all domains social, emotional, cognitive, and physical and to prepare children to function as fully contributing members of a democratic society.
Read, Play, and Learn!® storybook modules (each serves as a 2-week “unit” centered around a popular storybook) include sequenced activities in 10 classroom centers designed to promote sustained development in all domains. The domains distinguished in Read, Play, and Learn!® are the following:
- Cognitive: Skills in the domain include sequential thinking, classification, one-to-one correspondence, representation through drawing and writing, and problem solving.
- Communication and language: These skills include not only a child’s ability to express him- or herself (expressive communication) and understand what is communicated (receptive communication) but also the pragmatic ability to engage in communicative interactions. Articulation and phonemic awareness, drawing and writing, and reading are important areas of development within this domain.
- Social-emotional: Development in this domain tracks a child’s social interactions and emotional well-being.
- Sensorimotor: This domain encompasses sensory (e.g., visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory) development as well as motor skill acquisition, both fine (small muscle) and gross (large muscle) motor.
Along with helping children achieve long-range goals across these domains, Read, Play, and Learn!® activities encourage children to express themselves in as many modes as possible and to recognize others’ perspectives, fostering understanding and acceptance.
3. Curriculum addresses the development of knowledge and understanding, processes and skills, dispositions and attitudes.
Read, Play, and Learn!® helps children acquire knowledge and master skills in ways that ensure the children will both be able to and wish to apply the knowledge or skills in their own daily lives. That way, children come to associate positive feelings with learning.
For example, children in Read, Play, and Learn!® classrooms do not learn about print by practicing writing exercises. Rather, they come to understand the functions of print as they use print in their play to make a “get well” for a sick classmate or to write a check at a pretend store. They come to understand the forms of print through manipulating and experimenting with pencils and papers, stamps, or words and pictures cut out of magazines to make lists or pretend tickets. This broader understanding the curriculum encourages serves as excellent preparation for later schoolwork because children are motivated to use the knowledge and skills they gain on a daily basis.
4. Curriculum addresses a broad range of content that is relevant, engaging, and meaningful to children.
As a play-based storybook curriculum, Read, Play, and Learn!® presumes from the get go that children learn best when what they’re learning (and how they’re learning it) is relevant and meaningful. And children do love the storybooks; each story can easily be related to events in the children’s lives, which makes the learning process more meaningful. For example, in the first story of the year, “The Kissing Hand,” Chester the raccoon is sad about having to leave his friends and toys to go to school. Many children entering school or returning after summer vacation experience similar uncertainty and separation anxiety. Activities centered around “The Kissing Hand” help children cope and introduce them to all of the fun experiences they will have at school.
The content of each module, far from being limited by a focus on a single storybook, engages the children in a broad range of activities and experiences that take the story as a starting place. Drama, science and math, art, music, table and floor play, sensorimotor activities, and even outdoor play are incorporated into each story unit. As children dramatize the stories and explore story elements through play, they apply their own feelings and experiences to their exploration throughout the year. “Picking Apples and Pumpkins,” “Night Tree,” and “The Snowy Day” are seasonal stories that help children learn about nature, animals, weather, and shopping. Real-world concepts come to life in modules for stories such as “The Knight and the Dragon” or “First Flight” when children transform their classroom into their own restaurant or airport and model events from each tale.
5. Curriculum goals are realistic and attainable for most children in the designated age range for which they were designed.
Read, Play, and Learn!® is designed for children 3-6 years chronological age including children who function at a younger age, even those as developmentally young as 1 or 2 years. Experts from numerous disciplines, including education, special education, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy provided substantial input during the development of the curriculum to ensure the appropriateness of activities. Furthermore, adaptations and modifications were designed so that teachers and aides could very effectively incorporate therapeutic interventions for children with special needs as part of all classroom activities.
The curriculum applies a levels of learning framework to help teachers teach children with a wide rage of abilities and individual learning objectives using the same storybooks and classroom activities. Young children typically fall into one (or straddle two) of the three levels of learning explained in detail in the Teacher’s Guide: sensorimotor, functional, and symbolic. Depending on their level, children have different goals for each center and activity; one of the primary goals of the classroom activities is to encourage children’s progress to the next level. Suggestions, ideas, and specific modifications for children at each of the three levels accompany activities in each classroom center outlined in the storybook modules.
What really makes Read, Play, and Learn!® stand out from other preschool and kindergarten curricula is how well it helps teachers learn to identify children’s individual levels of learning by observing children’s play. Using this levels framework provides a really practical way for teachers to get to know all of the children in their classrooms and organize and modify activities so that children of all abilities develop across domains and progress to the next level of learning.
6. Curriculum content reflects and is generated by the needs and interests of individual children within the group. Curriculum incorporates a wide variety of learning experiences, materials and equipment, and instructional strategies to accommodate a broad range of children’s individual differences in prior experience, maturation rates, styles of learning, needs and interests.
Young children are almost always motivated to play. Read, Play, and Learn!’s® combination of literature and play builds on two primary interests of young children: 1) the desire to learn about and communicate to others knowledge about the people, places, things, and ideas that are having an impact on the children’s world; and 2) the need to increase the number of ways such knowledge can be shared. Read, Play, and Learn!’s® ability to capitalize on these natural inclinations for children at varying levels of development with unique interests and needs is one of its most compelling points.
During a typical day, children move around the room from center to center, participating in activities that allow them to access and benefit from the curriculum at their individual levels of learning. After reading the story together each morning, children reenact and expand on the story in the Dramatic Play area, following a model script that allows all children to participate. In the Motor Area and during outdoor play, children can develop and strengthen muscle tone and motor skills. Floor Play and Table Play areas both encourage social interaction and creativity as children use blocks and toys to create miniature scenarios pertaining to the story, or create art projects or crafts. In the Sensory Area, a child at the sensorimotor level can touch and pull clay while classmates are making clay animals. Children at the functional level can try new manipulative skills at the Woodworking Center or develop representational thinking skills in the Art Area. Children at the symbolic level are encouraged to explore, measure, compare, and share knowledge with their peers in the Science and Math Center. Each child is encouraged to communicate as much as possible in a method appropriate to his or her developmental level, in order to develop both expressive and receptive communication skills.
7. Curriculum respects and supports individual, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Curriculum supports and encourages positive relationships with children’s families.
Read, Play, and Learn!® recognizes that children come from a variety of backgrounds, and the curriculum is supportive of all kinds of diversity in the classroom. Although the nature of play in cultures may vary, play is an element of all cultures and a principal instrument for practicing the manners, customs, behaviors, and routines that are important to lives of children. A play-based curriculum quite naturally creates a supportive environment for children’s cultural expressions in their everyday activities.
The Read, Play, and Learn!® storybooks were also carefully selected to expose children to the wide array of cultures that make up the United States. Classics such as “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” are joined by regional-themed tales such as “Abiyoyo” and “The Three Little Javelinas.” “A Rainbow of Friends” exposes children to diversity of all types. Through module activities, children learn to respect cultural and language differences as well as the varying strengths and challenges of all individuals.
The Teacher’s Guide strongly encourages teachers to develop a family involvement component of their program and gives teachers the tools they need to do it. Teachers can distribute to parents the ready-to-photocopy handouts included in the Teacher’s Guide that describe the curriculum, its activities and goals, and suggestions for family activities that build on the concepts introduced in the classroom. Photocopiable letters home and family activities are included in each storybook module. The Teacher’s Guide shows teachers how to develop and maintain strong two-way communication with parents by sending home questionnaires, holding workshops for families, using journals or communication notebooks, and inviting parents to participate in story reading time at school.
8. Curriculum builds upon what children already know and are able to do (activating prior knowledge) to consolidate their learning and to foster their acquisition of new concepts and skills.
Read, Play, and Learn!® builds upon children’s prior knowledge and skills in teaching new concepts at both the module and whole curriculum levels.
Because the storybooks directly relate to the daily experiences of the children, classroom activities from the start offer children a reference point for beginning their acquisition of new concepts and skills. The storybook modules themselves are two-week units that build day by day, capitalizing on what children have already learned in the previous days’ activities to help them expand skills and look at problems in new ways. For example, on the first day of a new module, children typically act out scenes from the storybook following a script with prompting from the teacher in the Dramatic Play Area. By the third of fourth day of the module, children act out the stories but create their own new props and scenery, play different roles, and expand the stories in new ways with new dialogue.
Most important, with its focus on individualized goals and instruction, Read, Play, and Learn!’s® levels of learning framework (see Guideline #5) ensures that the curriculum builds upon children’s skills to learn new ones. The Teacher’s Guide shows teachers how to use the modifications for children at each of the three levels (sensorimotor, functional, and symbolic) that accompany the activities to do just that. For example, children at the functional level are typically already good at manipulating materials. Through activities in the Art Area, they can build upon these skills by learning to use art materials to create symbolic representations, such as easel or mural paintings, of the concepts presented in the stories.
By incorporating a wide variety of materials and taking advantage of Read, Play, and Learn!’s® many activity suggestions, teachers can make activities cognitively motivating and challenge children to learn new skills and modes of expression each and every day.
9. The curriculum provides conceptual frameworks for children so that their mental constructions based on prior knowledge and experience become more complex over time.
Read, Play, and Learn!® is more than a collection of activities; it is a coherent whole-school-year curriculum. Although teachers have freedom in their scheduling of activities and modules, the modules are sequenced to allow children to acquire more complex cognitive skills over time, including sequential thinking, classification, one-to-one correspondence, representation through drawing and writing, and problem solving. Throughout the school year, children’s existing knowledge is built upon through meaningful experiences and language, as opposed to isolated skill development.
For example, children at the sensorimotor level learn through exploration and manipulation of objects. The Teacher’s Guide explains that every classroom center (e.g., Science and Math Center, Art Area) should contain materials that these children can manipulate, bang, shake, and investigate with simple actions to encourage their exploration. The goals for children at this level are to expand their repertoire of actions on objects, increase their motivation to cause an effect on their environment, increase the number of actions they can sequence, and increase their social interactions or turn taking in play. The modifications for each center activity included in the storybook modules help teachers encourage children’s development along these lines, eventually moving on to the more complex mental constructions characteristic of children at the functional and symbolic levels.
10. Curriculum allows for focus on a particular topic or content, while allowing for integration across traditional subject-matter divisions by planning around themes and/or learning experiences that provide opportunities for rich conceptual development.
Each Read, Play, and Learn!® storybook module centers around an engaging theme or a holiday. (Teachers, in fact, will find that theme-based materials they have already developed will work very nicely with most Read, Play, and Learn!® modules.) Each storybook module includes sequential activities that relate to the theme across all content areas, including drama, science and math, art, and sensorimotor disciplines. All developmental domains are integrated into the full spectrum of activities.
Module 1, “The Kissing Hand,” for example, focuses on Chester the raccoon’s going to school at night for the first time, making it a perfect choice for the first story of the year. As the two weeks unfold, the classroom transforms into a raccoon’s den as activities and art projects build on the “Kissing Hand” story, extending the original concept. Children play Animal Hide-and-Seek, replicate the phases of the moon with a ball and flashlight in the Science and Math Center, and take a bouncy “bus ride” to school in the Motor Area. By the end of the period, the children have created a moon map and have created an obstacle course on their way to school.
11. The curriculum has intellectual integrity; content meets the recognized standards of the relevant subject-matter disciplines.
Read, Play, and Learn!® has a strong conceptual and theoretical basis (see Guideline #1) and reflects the latest research in early learning. It was also designed to enable children to acquire knowledge across subject-matter disciplines while developing skills in key developmental domains. Read, Play, and Learn!® meets recognized standards across these subject-matter disciplines; for details check out these state standards correlations:
- Read, Play, and Learn!® meets the state of Utah’s subject-matter standards (reading, writing, speaking, listening, mathematics, science). To see the standards list compiled by the state of Utah in their evaluation of the curriculum, see Outcomes at a Glance.
Watch our State Standards page for updates as more standards correlations are added to this site.
12. The content of the curriculum is worth knowing; curriculum respects children’s intelligence and does not waste their time.
If you examine the components of the Read, Play, and Learn!® curriculum, you won’t find the (typically expensive) flashcards, worksheets, or other materials that accompany many preschool and kindergarten curricula. In actuality, these types of activities are unrelated to what children do in their everyday lives. Instead, Read, Play, and Learn!® is filled with activities that respect children’s intelligence and capitalize on their natural inclination to learn. For example, in “First Flight,” children transform part of their classroom into an airport and simulate ticket purchases and travel. Not only does this provide for interaction and cooperation with peers, but it also allows children to learn about transactions and aviation mechanics.
By providing activities that stimulate children across all levels of development, Read, Play, and Learn!® guarantees that all children will always be challenged, motivated, and respected.
13. Curriculum engages children actively, not passively, in the learning process. Children have opportunities to make meaningful choices.
By the very play-based nature of the curriculum, Read, Play, and Learn!® allows, even insists, that children take an active role in their learning. Whether they are experimenting in the Science and Math Area, expressing their ideas through art, song, dance, and movement, or putting their thoughts down on paper in pictures and words, children are always thinking, problem-solving, and constructing knowledge.
Every day, children in Read, Play, and Learn!® classrooms take an active role in the reading of the storybooks, either by retelling, identifying characters in the pictures, or discussing the vocabulary or feelings referred to in the story. Each day features “Choice Time,” when children can move between centers of their choosing and explore books on their own in the Literacy Center. And with Read, Play, and Learn!®, all children have the opportunity to become active, interested learners by creating art projects, dressing up in costumes, helping prepare the day’s snack, putting puzzles together, and more.
14. Curriculum values children’s constructive errors and does not prematurely limit exploration and experimentation for sake of ensuring “right” answers.
In Read, Play, and Learn!® classrooms, children are encouraged to experiment, explore, and work with peers and teachers in every classroom center. As discussed in Guideline #12, student worksheets, flashcards, and other supplementary materials are not part of the curriculum precisely because exercises like these do limit children’s exploration and experimentation. Read, Play, and Learn!® activities are not constructed in such a way that there are right or wrong answers; instead, children are encouraged to use their imagination to make up songs, stories, new dialogue for storybooks, and work through problems.
For example, throughout “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” module, children at the symbolic level engage in activities designed to encourage them to attempt reading and sounding out words. The module provides specific suggestions for teachers for encouraging children’s progress, including praising any and all attempts to read, regardless of errors. This will help children develop a sense of competence and autonomy, the module explains, which will help encourage later efforts and success with more conventional reading. This philosophy is core to Read, Play, and Learn!® and supported throughout with suggestions like these for teachers.
15. Curriculum emphasizes the development of children’s thinking, reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities.
Regardless of children’s developmental levels, Read, Play, and Learn!® activities across all classroom centers encourage children to develop critical thinking and thought-processing skills by exploring, comparing, and asking questions. These skills and abilities are closely tied with children’s development of expressive language skills, which can include both vocal and nonvocal (as well as oral and written) communication. With Read, Play, and Learn!®, children have the opportunity to represent and express their burgeoning ideas in a variety of ways while discovering new facts about their world.
Children at the symbolic level, for example, are encouraged to use more complex language structures and problem-solving skills in each module. There are several ways the Teacher’s Guide and individual modules suggest children can develop and practice these abilities as part of the module activities, such as by using verbal mediation to solve math and science problems; figuring out how to create structures, props, art activities, and recipes to go along with the storybooks; and using language skills to solve social conflicts that arise.
16. Curriculum emphasizes the value of social interaction to learning in all domains and provides opportunities to learn from peers.
One of the best things to remember about Read, Play, and Learn!® is that each storybook module provides activity modifications and adaptations so that teachers can meet the various developmental needs of individual children within the same activities. Because children at different learning levels can participate in activities together, all of them will have the opportunity to interact fully with and learn from their peers.
Most all Read, Play, and Learn!® activities require children to interact and cooperate with peers, and teachers are encouraged to create situations where children need to talk to one another to participate in an activity. As the Teacher’s Guide and individual modules explain, teachers have numerous opportunities to help children build expressive and receptive communication skills through prompting, modeling, and reinforcing across all activities. Verbal and non-verbal methods of communication can be encouraged as the children explore, dramatize, create, and experiment together. Often social relationships and interaction are modeled and reinforced in many of the stories as well. “Friends,” for example, was specifically selected because it is based on friendly play among peers. All of the centers during this module can be arranged so that “friends” need to work or play together.
17. Curriculum is supportive of children’s physiological needs for activity, sensory stimulation, fresh air, rest, hygiene, and nourishment/elimination.
Read, Play, and Learn!® classrooms are characterized by their constant hum of activity. Sensorimotor activities are included in every set of story activities. Children have opportunities to move around, manipulate a variety of objects in the activity centers, and improve their muscle tone and motor skills through indoor and outdoor activities. Indeed, outdoor play is a part of every storybook unit. For example, in “A Rainbow of Friends,” children make “wind wheels” and run with them with their arms raised up in the air so that the streamers fly behind them. In “Night Tree,” children go for a walk to look at different trees and play outside as frogs hopping on haunches.
Snack time is part of every day’s schedule. It’s not simply a time to eat; it’s a full-fledged learning experience. Children are involved in the preparation and serving of the snack, using their measuring and fine motor skills. Bathroom time should of course be fit in as often as needed.
18. Curriculum protects children’s psychological safety, that is, children feel happy, relaxed, and comfortable rather than disengaged, frightened, worried, or stressed.
First and foremost, children in Read, Play, and Learn!® classrooms are not forced to participate in activities in which they are uncomfortable or too advanced for their developmental level, which would cause stress and worry. Because every activity can be modified to meet each child’s needs and developmental level, children feel comfortable and included regardless of their abilities.
A storybook provides the basis for classroom activities for each two-week period, giving children a level of familiarity and comfort with the content and concepts explored even as they extend their knowledge and skills. The stories themselves also help children explore and cope with difficult issues in their lives, such as going to school for the first time (“The Kissing Hand”) or working out friendships (“Friends”). With activities built on children’s natural preferences, Read, Play, and Learn!® allows children to enjoy themselves while learning and sharing their knowledge with others.
Family involvement in school activities is also a source of comfort for children, and Read, Play, and Learn!® strongly suggests teachers develop a family involvement component (see Guideline #7). For example, parents can be asked to provide materials for projects as well as make a voice recording of various storybooks on tape and send it to school. The recordings can be played in the classroom on a rotating basis so that every child has a chance to hear their parents’ voices.
19. The curriculum strengthens children’s sense of competence and enjoyment of learning by providing experiences for children to succeed from their point of view.
All children, whether typically developing, advanced, or experiencing delays or deviations in their development, need a foundation that will inspire them to learn to listen, think, communicate, and learn about their world in as many modes as possible. Because Read, Play, and Learn!® tackles this goal through play something most all children heartily enjoy children are involved in the entire learning process and experience a wonderful sense of accomplishment as they engage in activities that are meaningful to them and geared to their individual levels of development.
The best tangible evidence of this is actually the classroom itself. Every two weeks, Read, Play, and Learn!® classrooms fill with scenery, props, art creations, and science projects. Day by day, children see their growing collective knowledge displayed proudly around the room. The art, costumes, settings, and snacks the children create as part of the module activities give them tangible evidence of what they are learning. That kind of positive daily feedback is invaluable to developing children’s sense of competence and enjoyment.
20. The curriculum is flexible so teachers can adapt to individual children or groups.
As explained in Guideline #5 Read, Play, and Learn!® applies a levels of learning framework to help teachers teach children with a wide range of abilities and individual learning objectives using the same storybooks and classroom activities. Young children typically fall into one (or straddle two) of the three levels of learning explained in detail in the Teacher’s Guide: sensorimotor, functional, and symbolic. Depending on their level, children have different goals for each center and activity; one of the primary goals of the classroom activities is to encourage children’s progress to the next level. Suggestions, ideas, and specific modifications for children at each of the three levels accompany activities in each classroom center outlined in the storybook modules.
What really makes Read, Play, and Learn!® stand out from other preschool and kindergarten curricula is how well it helps teachers learn to identify children’s individual levels of learning by observing children’s play. Using this levels framework provides a really practical way for teachers to get to know all of the children in their classrooms and organize and adapt activities so that children of all abilities develop across domains and progress to the next level of learning.
(In addition, Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of the Teacher’s Guide offer specific strategies for adapting activities to meet the needs of children with hearing and/or vision impairments and physical challenges.)
Although the modules follow a rough sequence throughout the year, teachers can adapt the sequence of the modules to suit their classes’ needs. With a little planning, teachers can pick up or slow down the pace, spending more or less time on a particular story. Teachers can also substitute other stories in place of those that are recommended; alternative storybooks and software suggestions are included with each module.
(Some teachers even go on to develop their own modules around favorite storybooksif you do, please tell us about it!)