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symbolic play
home literacy practices
early literacy development
Issue Date: 
Paper presented at the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association, Hong Kong, 2006.
Children’s earliest discoveries about literacy are learned through active
engagement with their social and cultural worlds (Bissex, 1980). Play is a social activity that
evolves through the internalization of socio-cultural processes and practices, a tool enabling
children to learn about literacy through interaction with the environment (Neuman & Roskos,
1997). Symbolic play supports the development of early literacy skills. It is the imaginative
function of language: characterized by the use of explicit language to convey meaning,
linguistic verbs to clarify and negotiate meaning, as well as the theme of integration and
organization of language and stories, required in both symbolic play and literate behaviors of
children that results in this (Pelligrini & Galda, 1990, 1993). In this paper, we take a close
look at four instances of symbolic play narratives enacted at home by a group of three
siblings over a two-year period. Micro-analyses of the play setting (props, play area),
physical actions and movements, as well as the pattern of discourse contained within these
narratives show a pattern of narrative competence (role appropriate language and story
production and comprehension) and appropriation of socio-cultural experiences that
Pelligrini (1985) argues is necessary for schooled literacy practices. Hence, it is within this
context of purposeful, pressure-free play in familiar environments that children may best
display and extend knowledge about literacy and how it may function in their worlds
(Fantuzzo, Sutton-Smith, Coolahan, Manz, Canning & Debnam, 1995). We view these play
activities as a useful pedagogical tool in the classroom. A dynamic and active classroom
context for participation in literacy development offers children real-world opportunities to
engage in language and literacy practices. Blending in situated learning with the more formal
traditional learning ensures continuity between the rich contexts of home and school literacy
Project number: 
CRP 19/04 MAB
Appears in Collections:CRPP - Conference Papers

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