Literacy Beginnings Chapter 1

Welcome to the Literacy Beginnings book study blog party! Today I am covering the introduction “Living and Learning in the Pre-Kindergarten Classroom” as well as the first chapter, “Growing Up Literate: PreKindergarten for the Future Generation“. I hope you will join in the conversation by leaving a comment below or posting reflections on your own blog. Bloggers, you can grab the button at the bottom of this post. I plan on offering several resources you can print and use in your classroom throughout the book study so make sure you are following Pre-K Pages and all the other participating blogs so you don’t miss anything.

reading book on ferry
Disclosure: Amazon links included below

Literacy Beginnings is written by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Irene Fountas is a professor at Lesley University and Gay Su Pinnell is a professor at The Ohio State Univeristy. Fountas and Pinnell have researched and published many books about literacy learning. In Literacy Beginnings they have applied their vast knowledge and expertise to the prekindergarten classroom; their recommendations are based on observations conducted in those classrooms.

After reading the entire book on an airplane (oh yes I did!) the message of this book came through loud and clear:

  • Children learn through play
  • A pre-k classroom should be full of joy and fun
  • A strong foundation for literacy learning must be established from the very beginning

I feel badly for the passengers sitting near me on the plane because I know I shouted “Hallelujah” a few times and there might have even been a few “Amen’s” in there too. Much of this book affirms what I have been doing in the classroom for almost 20 years. What “a-ha” moments did you have while reading this chapter?

In the introduction, Living and Learning in the Pre-Kindergarten Classroom, the authors describe a typical day in two different classrooms, one is a class of three year-olds and the other is a four year-old class. What I liked most about the daily routines they describe is that literacy is infused throughout the day, not isolated in one big chunk. The day alternates between brief whole group times and opportunities for play and hands-on learning. I know that when my day is not well balanced my students are not as focused and not as much learning takes place. We will explore full and half-day schedules in more detail in Chapter 5.

Chapter 1, Growing Up Literate, begins with a fantastic quote by John Dewey,

“If we teach today, as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow.”

Vanessa in preschool
I can recall my preschool experience very clearly, I remember singing “Where is Thumbkin?” blowing bubbles with a straw in the sand and water table, and eating sugar cookies with milk for snack every single day. Today’s prekindergarten classrooms may look a little different, but different doesn’t mean “wrong” or “inappropriate”. A quote from the book sums it up nicely:

“The playtime and social training of traditional prekindergartens has not been replaced but rather infused with literacy”

We are preparing children for a different tomorrow therefore the instruction they receive today will also look a little different. Another point the authors make is that teachers in today’s pre-k classrooms are intentional in planning their literacy instruction, I like to think of it as guiding the students. A good teacher focuses on the natural curiosity of his or her students and uses that curiosity to guide them towards literacy learning. We can motivate our students to want to read and write by providing plenty of fun, playful, and hands-on experiences.

classroom library book tubs
The picture above shows my classroom library which we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 4.

The authors reference the International Reading Association (IRA) and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) joint position statement which recommends including the following in the pre-k classroom:

abc literacy center
The picture above shows my Alphabet Center. We will be discussing letter learning in more detail in Chapter 5. The item on the list above that poses the most difficulty for teachers is finding appropriate big books for shared reading. The authors address selecting texts for shared reading in Chapter 12 and offer suggestions.

Finally, my favorite part of Chapter 1 comes near the end when the authors denounce the use of worksheets and advocate for play and play activities that support language and literacy. I can’t tell you how great it is to see these words in print from the gurus of early literacy. As a public pre-k teacher I have become accustomed to not having my voice heard or being dismissed because there is nobody to back up my beliefs- at least nobody the people in charge have ever heard of. Now that Fountas and Pinnell have added prekindergarten to their repertoire I know administrators will listen because they are already familiar with and respect their work. I am certain this book will become the foundation of early literacy learning for many years to come. Do you think this book will change the way you are perceived as an early childhood educator?

Deb from Teach Preschool will be discussing Chapter 2 soon so stay tuned!

Grab the button below:

book study blog party

Want to let your friends know about the book study blog party? Click “Like” at the top of this page or choose from other social media options below.

About Vanessa Levin

Vanessa is the creator of Pre-K Pages and author of the book A Fabulous First Year and Beyond: A Practical Guide for Pre-K and Kindergarten Teachers. She has more than two decades of teaching experience and enjoys helping kids and teachers through her professional development sessions. Follow Vanessa on Facebook, Google +, Twitter and Pinterest.


  1. I haven’t yet purchased the book (lots of unexpected expenses right now) but plan to do so in the very near future and read it. Until then, I am looking forward to following the discussions. Just reading your entry once again reaffirmed that how my class works is best! thanks for a great discussion and I am excited to follow the remainder of them and too get my own copy of the book! Love the quote from John Dewey!!

  2. says:

    Love your post Vanessa!! I shared my favorite part on the No More Worksheets Facebook Page. I agree with you; amazing to see the authors denounce the use of worksheets and advocate for play and play activities that support language and literacy!! Gives me hope!

  3. Amanda Stiles says:

    I love how the book emphasizes learning through play and constructing real meaning, not just a set of skills that must be mastered on a rigid schedule.

  4. My program supervisor bought us all this book in the spring, and I am glad to have the time to read it and a chance to see what other people think! I had a very “of course!” moment during the introduction when they talked about having a literacy center time and a free choice center time. I have lots of fun games and activities during center time for literacy, but my students will choose blocks and housekeeping first; I know blocks and housekeeping are important, but want my students to choose the fun literacy activities, too. I think that altering my schedule to have a more dedicated literacy center time will be a great addition to my classroom!

  5. Sounds like an amazing book!
    It makes me anxious to read about books like this, and still see horrible things happening in classrooms, like worksheets and rote learning, and even worse, the push down curriculum! Literacy from the beginning does not mean pushing down the curriculum….

  6. Kristin Barton says:

    Thank you so much for having this book party. I was suppose to go to the Fountas and Pinnell workshop starting today at Lesley, but with the budget crunch at our district it fell through. I have taught first grade at a fully Literacy Collaborative school for the last five years and I will be teaching PreK in the fall. I am so excited! Our district hasn’t had PreK part of our district since the 80’s. I was run by an outside agency. I love this book!

  7. I suppose that is the best part about being a privately run preschool – I don’t have to worry about restrictions or policies regarding my teaching methods. So no worksheets for me! :)

  8. angela fuller says:

    I will be teaching Pre-K this coming year after teaching 3rd and 2nd grades. Just reading this 1st blog I am starting to get excited( I was worried at first) about teaching pre-k. I can’t wait for the next blog.

  9. Vanessa,,

    First let me thank you for starting and hosting this book study! What a wonderful book we will all read and share with each other virtually! I am working this summer with graduate students working on their Master’s in Literacy… This book is timely for me! As a kindergarten teacher, I also feel it is m y job to INFUSE my reading and writing activities into as much play as possible.

    I’m reminded of my kitchen center where children write the menu on the board and then have a notepad to take orders down. They are PLAYING and don’t even realize the literacy skills they are using and practicing. This is why I love my job. :)

  10. Whitney says:

    I am in the process of ordering this book. Thank you. I would sure appreciate any other “Pre-K” based resources/books that you and others would recommend as well. I have a ton of kindergarten books, but would like to read more “Pre-K specific” books/resources. Thank you again!

  11. Rebecca says:

    This is brilliant! Thanks so much for putting this information out there for the rest of us! I am doing my student teaching in August and am soaking up all the information like this that I can! Thank you!


  12. Jamie Armbruster says:

    My book is on its way! Can’t wait to get it in the mail. You are so right in finally having the affirmation that what we are doing in the pre-k classroom is right and vitally important! Thanks very much for the awesome website. I have gotten SO many wonderful ideas for my class via this site and prekinders. This past year was only my 2nd year as a pre-k teacher, so my repertoire of activities and such is still kinda limited. Your work and willingness to share has made all the difference!!

  13. Neely Bartell says:

    I am so excited to have come across this through Face Book. I am a certified teacher that decided to stay at home a raise my three boys, now 6,4 and 2. I have decided to teach my 4 year old along with three other children during their Pre-k year. I was struggling on where to start and by reading this book it has really helped me focus on what I need to do to be a great teacher. Thank you for doing this.

  14. LOVE the first post – wonderful job, Vanessa!

  15. Kathy Kiblin says:

    Thank you so much for hosting this book party! I can say I proudly own this book. I love the fact that everyone is getting on board with developmentally appropriate practice for preschoolers. Play is truly the best way for PreK children to learn. They can have access to literacy in any learning center; it does not have to be a literacy center. Given the right materials in a block center such as blueprints, books, paper and pencils, children can learn as much about literacy as they would in a focused activity. I am an avid follower of your blog, and now the other blogs that are part of this book study.

  16. Heidi Butkus says:

    Sounds intriguing, Vanessa! I really like the picture you included, too! I am looking forward to hearing all about the book from you. Thank goodness you have time to read it for me- that will be the best avenue, because I sure don’t have time to read it myself! I’m grateful for all of your hard work!
    Heidi Butkus

  17. Vanessa: thank you, thank you, thank you! Finally, a book study relevant to pre-kindergaren teacher! I have taught K4 for years, and have always fought for the acceptance that developmentally appropriate practice at the K4 level is NOT ‘Direct Instriction’ and work sheets. I implemented literacy work stations this past year…a lot of work to get them up and running, but SO worth it. I’m now prepping to implement math work stations this coming year. Thank you, thank you, that you for this book study! It is so relevant to my practice.

  18. Woops! That 2nd last sentence was supposed to say “Thank you, thank you, thank you for this book study!”

  19. Kathron Griffin says:

    As a veteran of 27 years teaching kindergarten and Pre-K, I am excited about this book study! We are always looking for better, more effective ways of helping our young students learn, and your website, Vanessa, along with the others in the book study group, are wonderful resources and inspiration for us. My book is also “on the way”, and I cannot wait to uncover new ideas and insights to help next year! I teach in a half-day church preschool program, so I am free to tailor my curriculum to the needs of my students, but I find that parents often need help understanding how important play is in their children’s learning. I look forward to finding more help, through this book study, to convince those parents how essential it is for their preschoolers to learn through play. Thanks again for the book study and your awesome website!

  20. Thank you so much for doing this. I bought the book and have started reading it, I just finished reading the second section. I am loving it so far. I have always known that preschoolers learn through play, but parents are constantly asking for more worksheets and what they call academics. I am going to use a few quotes from the book at our parent meeting before school starts this year, maybe it will help.

    Thanks for organizing this and for all the great ideas you share on your website and blog.


  21. As with everyone else, thank you for this book study and your great blog about it! I wasn’t exactly sure where it would be heading. As we know, there are many different approaches – often NOT developmentally appropriate – to literacy and I wanted to wait to purchase the $40 book until I got an idea. Needless to say, the book is on its way!! :-) Now I can’t wait for it to arrive and to add to this discussion. Thanks again! Looking forward to the rest of my summer reading this book … and sharing with my team!

  22. Arlina Wicker says:

    How ironic that I signed onto your website today. I purchased Math Stations by Debbie Diller on last week in an effort to redo some of my math stations for next year. I will be participating in this book study, and will order a copy this week.

    I have been teaching Pre-k for 8 yrs, and it’s so nice to hear a colleague express the same ideas that you have about learning through play. Vanessa I wanted to thank you for your inspiration. I am new to blogging, and your website is my inspiration. It will be fun just trying to keep up with everyone on the different blogs and websites.

    Again thank you!

  23. Nichole says:

    My thanks too for organising this. It’s nice that we can be living on opposite sides of the globe and sharing ideas in this way. We’re quite lucky in Australia as the play-based approach to learning is widely accepted here. My eldest daugher is in Yr2 here (she’s 7) and she gets to play. Wisely, her teacher explained the value of this at the start of the year for the benefit on any parents who might have ‘misunderstood’ what they were doing.

    “When young children play, they are self-motivated and actively engaged.” pg 27 is so very true but aren’t we all more motivated, more engaged when we’re doing something we enjoy and find of interest. Children are people too…

    I also agree with the text’s premise that literacy should not be taught as a block but can easily been integrated across your day for greater engagement and meaning.

    Love your website too – have shared the link with many others who have found it to be a valuable resource :)

  24. Cristi Hammond says:

    I am going into my third year of teaching young fives and i am so excited about this book study. I have taught first grade and reading recovery and I love all the literacy things I have been able to do in young fives and this book looks like it will affirm a lot of what I am doing and give me new ideas for what I’m not.

  25. I was able to download some sample pages and I love what I see. A question for those who have read more – is this book useful for a kindergarten class? Many of my students lack beginning literacy skills and phonemic awareness at the beginning of the year so I find that I begin my year using many of the activities from my days teaching pre-k. Thanks for your input!

  26. I found this blog a few minutes ago then ordered the book from Amazon. I am not a blogger but hope to in the near future. Vanessa, thank you so much for hosting this book study. I have used your ideas since I became a teacher five years ago. I met you in Tulsa last year at the Oklahoma Southern Early Childhood Assc. (SECA) conference. We all left with more ideas than we knew what to do with! Thank you for continually and freely giving so many practical, applicable ideas for use in the classroom.

  27. LaQuetha says:

    I just loved that it talked about infusing literacy into play. I teach pre-k at a play based child development center but I have a hard time when parents say will my child be prepared for kindergarten. They want to see worksheets and I just really don/’t believe in at 4 year old doing a worksheet. I loved how it talked about how play supports children’s social, emotional and intellectual development. It also talked about how when a child is playing they are actively engaged and self – motivated. I am so excited to read more and I looking forward to getting more ideas for setting up my classroom. Thanks so much for recommending this book!!!

  28. Welma Brits(Seemeeupark) says:

    Thank you for recommending this book. Literacy was recently interdice in our syllabus here in South Africa. Reading this book help me a lot with preparing my literacy lessons for the week.

  29. Leeanne A says:

    Coming from a YMCA ‘Play to Learn’ classroom – and Emergent classroom and now in a Montessori / ECE emergent classroom – i am so pleased to see many of the things I believe reinforced.

  30. That is so great to have people who know what they are talking about (of course, we know too!) say that play needs to me part of it. I teach kindergarten and we are lucky to still have play time every day (in addition to 2 recesses). I’m hoping somehow I’ll be able to teach another 25 years without that being taken away!

  31. Thank you for recommending this book! I love it and also sat and read the entire book in one day! There are so many great quotes in this book and the resources at the end are amazing. Chapter one is a great introduction to great and effective educating of Pre-K students. I am looking forward to the rest of these discussions. Thanks for this great idea!

  32. Sheila Schlesinger says:

    I am delighted to say that the NYC DOE has given this book to each pre-k teacher teaching for the DOE as an end of the year gift.
    I have been an advocate of no worksheets for years much to the annoyance of parents. I am fortunate that my principal taught pre-k her first year of teaching so she “gets it”
    This is an amazing book and long overdo.

  33. I just started reading my copy. I work in a full day, full year Head Start program. One thing I noticed in the opening pages, was the difference between the author’s example schedules, and my own. On the back cover, they describe the schedule in more detail…only 20 minutes for outdoor play! Also, the morning circle is 20 minutes (same as mine), followed by a 5 minute movement activity. Next is another 20 minutes chunk of interactive reading. I don’t think my kids would be able to sit for that long, even with a break…Any thoughts on this?

    • V. Levin says:

      I think the secret is making everything you do fun and interactive. If you infuse every part of your day with props, singing, and movement your kids will be capable of doing anything. My students are able to sit and participate in these types of activities. Of course, we have to remember that we won’t start off the first day being able to do anything for 20 minutes at a time :) We have to work on gradually increasing their attention spans in the beginning of the year. One thing to remember is that the authors are experts in early literacy learning, not in creating ece schedules. I would look at the information they provide on the early literacy best practices and see how you can incorporate those practices into your already existing schedule. Hope that help!

  34. Thank you…that does help! Sometimes I can be too “literal” in my translation of ideas. As a relatively new prek teacher (I have more experience with infant/toddler!), I sometimes struggle with the overall “am I doing this right?”. I am loving this book, by the way. A lot of what I’ve read reinforces my current practice, and I am also finding many ways to grow. Thanks!

  35. “Today rich literacy experiences are woven throught the day, providing opportunities for learning through play” is from the first paragraph, and that is what I try to do. I love how the chapter concludes with the essential role of play. Language is part of play, and play increases the opportunity and desire to use language.

Printables for Pre-K and Kindergarten Teachers

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email