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Literacy objects as cultural tools: Effects on children’s literacy behaviors in play

This study examined the effects of literacy-enriched play settings on preschoolers’ literacy behaviors in spontaneous free play. 91 children, ages 3-5, from two urban day-care centers participated in the study. Prior to and following the intervention, the frequency of each child’s handling, reading, and writing behaviors in play was assessed through direct observation. Videotaped samples of play areas examined the nature of children’s play themes and their uses of literacy objects in play. Following baseline observations, the physical environment of one of the day-care centers was enriched with literacy objects in three distinct play centers: kitchen, office, and library. Significant differences were recorded for the intervention group in the frequency, duration, and complexity of literacy demonstrations in play. Further, children in the intervention group incorporated literacy objects in more diverse and functional ways in their play, using more explicit language than the nonintervention group.