There are plenty of studies and observations on the value of early childhood education, scripted reading programs, and instructional methods for literacy development. Research can be quantitative or qualitative and some research designs are stronger than others. No matter, it’s hard to research growing children in an ethical manner while accounting for all their individual variations. However, a study at Vanderbilt University happened to create “the closest thing you can get in the real world to a randomized control trial—the gold standard in showing causality in science.”
Certainly, no study is the last word. Much more always need to be done. But the author concluded that:
“We might actually get better results from simply letting little children play.”
A restorative literacies circle can ask, Have we forgotten about play?
What are some of our memories of playing as young children? How did we develop our characters and plot in pretend play? Where was the scene? What items did we use? Who did most of the narration?
What are some of the ways a cherished bedtime story can be brought to playing? A readers’ theater of sorts, perhaps?
What are some of the literacies artifacts that can be incorporated into play areas? Recipes and menus in the play kitchen? Traffic signs and maps with the toy trucks and cars?
How can items for writing and reading be brought to playgrounds? Sticks for writing in sand? Paint brushes dipped in water? Chalk for sidewalks? Gigantic bananagram tiles?
How do we talk to young children about silly “potty” language? (After all, isn’t there’s a lot of phonemic awareness and rhyming involved?) Do we join them or warn them? Or both—explaining there’s a time and place for such silliness?
And how about trying to write exact instructions?