Back when my kids were in preschool, I used to get a slight headache whenever I visited their classrooms because of the kaleidoscope of stuff that decorated the walls. From the letters of the alphabet to the poster of numbers and other colorful artwork, there was always something to look at and think about.
Those are some of the components that can make an early-learning classroom a literacy-rich environment, says John Funk, an early childhood expert who writes about the importance of creating such an environment on the Earlychildhood NEWS website.
Funk says that it's important to fill a preschool classroom with references to print. So, along with those alphabet charts, print labels should accompany visual and picture reminders about class rules and schedules in the classroom. And teachers should label "every part of the classroom from the doors to the sink." Even labels with children's names can be effective in teaching kids about print, he writes.
One interesting note: Funk says that those charts, labels, and other print items should be situated at eye level or lower for kids. Items posted above the child's line of sight are no longer learning tools—they're decorations, he says.
Some of his other ideas include:
Classroom libraries can be an important part of a literacy rich environment. Funk recommends that four books per child be available and that books be located in a number of places around the classroom. Listening centers with books on CD and their print copies also offer a fun way to expose kids to print and reading.
Writing centers can provide a way for preschoolers to develop fine motor skills and learn about print. These centers should provide lots of writing tools and different types of paper like newsprint and construction paper to help make writing fun, he says.
"Supporting literacy in the classroom is critical in the early years in helping children become literate individuals," Funk writes. "Good teachers continually ask themselves what more they can do to create a literacy-rich environment for their students."