Building Language for Literacy was created from the findings in the NAEYC/IRA Joint Position Statement — the most current research in early literacy. This correlation highlights important areas of the research and shows how Building Language for Literacy supports the research in great detail. One of our program authors, Susan Neuman, Ed.D. is also an architect of the Joint Position Statement.



The Beginning Years







Experiences throughout the early childhood years, birth through age eight, affect the development of literacy.

Building Language for Literacy
© 2000 by Scholastic

Research shows how important it is to surround a young child with many and different language and literacy experiences. Building Language for Literacy is a prekindergarten and kindergarten curriculum that provides a rich environment of print and nonprint experiences related to language and literacy development. Built around four foundational goals—oral language, phonological awareness, letter/sound knowledge, and print knowledge—Building Language for Literacy is a program of instruction that incorporates such early childhood teaching tools as literature, music, poetry, learning center activities, and puppets to engage children as active learners.


Young children especially need to be engaged in experiences that make academic content meaningful and build on prior learning.

Based on an organization of places rather than themes, Building Language for Literacy builds on children's life experiences and makes the home/school connection by focusing activities around familiar places in the community. By providing a basis in familiar places, people, and objects, the program enables children to use prior knowledge to relate to new understandings, thus increasing their possibilities of success.

All teachers of young children need good, foundational knowledge in language acquisition, including second-language learning, the processes of reading and writing, early literacy development, and experience and teaching practices contributing to optimal development.

Building Language for Literacy is designed to be both practical and flexible in its support for teachers. Each Unit Guide provides detailed lessons for developing oral language, reading, and writing skills; assessment strategies; second-language support suggestions; and built-in staff development. The "Blueprint for Literacy" professional workshops—four in each Unit Guide—offer best practices for early literacy development. A "Pacing and Planning Guide" as well as clearly labeled skill and knowledge objectives in each lesson help teachers see what each activity will accomplish. In addition to the in-text support, teachers will find the Parent Involvement Handbook a useful tool. It contains letters and activities to send home to families and ideas to help teachers get parents meaningfully involved in classroom life.

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Building Language for Literacy
© 2000 by Scholastic


. . . [R]eading and writingacquisition is better conceptualized as a developmental continuum than as an all-or-nothing phenomenon.


Building Language for Literacy
is a thoughtfully designed program in which developmental skills are introduced and practiced along a continuum. Children experience activities to develop oral language, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and print knowledge on a daily basis. Skills presented recursively so that children have multiple experiences to build a deep foundation in language development.


Children need regular and active interactions with print.


Building Language for Literacy
provides a print-rich environment for children on a daily basis. The classroom library includes a variety of genres and both fiction and nonfiction. Unique Place Books that are 100% photographic invite children into the text through the use of original characters. In learning centers children will use functional literacy props such as board books, mini-books, audiocassettes, Venn Diagrams and charts, all of which represent different forms of print.

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The Beginning Years
(Birth Through Preschool)


The single most important activity for building these understandings and skills essential for reading success appears to be reading aloud to children.


Research has found that reading aloud to children is correlated to later success with independent reading. Rereadings are also critically important. "Story Time" lessons are built around multiple, read-aloud sessions. Children have many opportunities to listen to each book being read aloud, and then to work with the book by retelling the story or rereading it themselves, by participating in related discussions, and by collaborating in rich, language based activities related to the story.


A central goal during these preschool years is to enhance children's exposure to and concepts about print. . . . including the fact that print (rather than pictures) carries the meaning of the story, that the strings of letters between spaces are words and in print correspond to an oral version, and that reading progresses from left to right and top to bottom.


Throughout Building Language for Literacy, children are exposed to a variety of print—fiction and nonfiction trade books, poems, printed words of songs, signs, lists, recipes and so on. By participating in read-alouds and related activities, children develop an understanding that print carries a message and recognize that stories have sequence and flow. Through multiple encounters with these materials, and the provided teachers modeling strategies, children develop critical concepts of print that aid the reading process.


Children also need opportunity to practice what they've learned about print with their peers and on their own.


Building Language for Literacy
connects Circle Time and Story Time activities to Choice Time explorations in Dramatic Play, Art and Writing, Science, Math, Blocks, Messy Play, and Reading and Listening centers. The Center activities provide a wealth of opportunities for children to explore concepts introduced through read aloud experiences, to interact with one another in creative and imaginative play and to develop oral language and vocabulary through decontextualized language use.


Children learn a lot about reading from the labels, signs, and other kinds of print they see around them.


At a very young age, children begin to notice the various forms of print around them. Building Language for Literacy takes these prior experiences and broadens them. The "places" Framework and the teaching suggestions throughout the Unit Guides allow teachers to reinforce environmental print in children's own communities and in the classroom.


Children who are learning English as a second language are more likely to become readers and writers of English when they are already familiar with the vocabulary and concepts in their primary language.


In every lesson in Building Language for Literacy, teachers will find second-language support strategies to aid children who are learning English as a second language. In addition, the use of places, such as home and store, as the organizing principle for the program ensures familiarity with each unit's focus and vocabulary to describe it. Building Language for Literacy builds on this prior knowledge of concepts and the vocabulary in the primary language to help children make the transition to English.


A fundamental insight developed in children's early years through instruction is the alphabetic principle, the understanding that there is a systematic relationship between letters and sounds.


To facilitate children's understanding of the alphabetic principle, one of the foundational goals of Building Language for Literacy is to develop in children an awareness of letter/sound correspondence. Children engage in activities that help them make letter sound discoveries in authentic and meaningful ways. Leo, the Letter-Loving Lobster, one of the language-loving characters in the program, is a tool for learning the letters of the alphabet. Leo says the first letter of every word he sees. Leo's alphabet, an alphabet frieze on 7 song cards is designed to be used while singing the alphabet song, reinforcing the idea that the letters of the alphabet are part of a system called the alphabet.


Alphabet books and alphabet puzzles in which children can see and compare letters may be a key to efficient and easy learning.

. . . [C]hildren learn about the sounds of language through exposure to linguistic awareness games, nursery rhymes, and rhythmic activities.


Letter knowledge and phonological awareness are two of the four foundational goals of Building Language for Literacy. Because many children learn more easily if they can see and touch a concrete example of a concept, such as a letter/sound correspondence, the program provides numerous suggestions for concretizing the alphabet from reading an alphabet book to counting the repetition of a particular letter on a page to having children write their names. Phonological awareness is developed through the use of poetry; nursery rhymes; rhyming, alliteration, and letter substitution games; and rhythmic activities.


In the preschool years sensitizing children to sound similarities does not seem to be strongly dependent on formal training but rather from listening to patterned, predictable texts while enjoying the feel of reading and language.


Because of the importance of phonemic awareness to emerging literacy, one of the foundational goals of Building Language for Literacy is to develop phonological awareness. Throughout the program, children engage in meaningful fun activities that help them build their awareness of the sounds of language. For example, children discuss the sounds that letters make, sound out letters, and play games with letters and words. By listening to frequent re-readings of appropriate-level literature, children quickly learn the words and story and enjoy the sense of reading the book—an instant confidence booster. Reggie, the Rhyming Rhino, another language-loving, original character in the program, is a tool for learning and developing phonological awareness. Through songs and poems children are exposed to the sounds and patterns of language.


. . . [S]tudies suggest that temporary invented spelling may contribute to beginning reading.


Excited by what they are learning, young children reach a point where they themselves want to express themselves though drawing and writing. Because it is important to encourage children in their attempts, Building Language for Literacy provides strategies and activities to encourage these explorations, such as creating lists, writing stories, recipes and more.


Classrooms that provide children with regular opportunities to express themselves on paper, without feeling too constrained for correct spelling and proper handwriting, also help children understand that writing has real purpose.


The emphasis in the writing activities in Building Language for Literacy is to provide opportunities for children to recognize different functional uses for writing and drawing. Throughout the program, writing activities relate directly to the poems, songs, books, and projects that children are working with. Children write labels for pictures they draw, stories for class books, directions for recipes, lists of things to do, and so on—real world uses of writing.


Classrooms filled with print, language and literacy play, storybook reading, and writing allow children to experience the joy and power associated with reading and writing while mastering basic concepts about print that research has shown are strong predictors of achievement.


Most young children enter school curious about the world of print. Building Language for Literacy builds on this curiosity to help children develop literacy skills. The program components provide fiction and nonfiction trade books, word cards, song and poem charts, and alphabet cards. The Unit Guides encourage teachers to provide a print-rich environment by offering suggestions for bulletin boards, learning centers, and activities that make use of print or encourage children to write their own print materials.

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In Kindergarten


Knowledge of the forms and functions of print serves as a foundation from which children become increasingly sensitive to letter shapes, names, sounds, and words.

Because knowledge of the forms and functions of print serves as a foundation from which children become increasingly aware of letter shapes, names, sounds, and words, one of the foundational goals of Building Language for Literacy is to develop print knowledge. The program provides a variety of forms and formats to address this goal. Children have opportunities to follow along on poem and song charts, to read books, and to create their own print. Strategies encourage them to identify letters and how letters form words that have meaning.


. . . [C]hildren need to interact with a rich variety of print.

Because children need a print-rich environment, Building Language for Literacy provides a variety of resources—fiction and nonfiction trade books, word cards, song and poem charts, and alphabet cards. The lessons and strategies in the Unit Guides are based on children's interactions with these materials.


Children need to be exposed to vocabulary from a wide variety of genres, including informational texts as well as narratives.


Expanding a child's vocabulary is an important step in the literacy process. Nina the Newt's role in Building Language for Literacy is to help children develop oral language skills and vocabulary. Each lesson develops a set of related vocabulary words, which children will meet first in a song, poem, or book—fiction or nonfiction—and then in related activities. Learning center projects also provide opportunities for children to learn and use additional new vocabulary. Nina, the Naming Newt, the third, original character in the program, names and labels everything she sees. She is a tool for learning oral language vocabulary.


Repeated readings
appear to further reinforce the language of the text as well as to familiarize children with the way different genres are structured.


Building Language for Literacy
builds rereadings and retellings into its lessons. Each "Story Time" lesson includes strategies for "Early Rereadings," "Later Rereadings," and "Remembered Rereadings." Children are encouraged to predict what will happen, recall the sequence of events, and retell the story. Through interactive read-aloud sessions, children increase their vocabulary and comprehension skills and associate a sense of fun and play with reading. Teachers are provided with strategies for changing the instructional focus with each rereading, thereby covering all four foundational goals of the program with each book.


Activities that help children clarify the concept of word are also worthy of time and attention in the kindergarten curriculum.


Concepts of print is one of the four foundational goals. Concept of a word is a critical part of learning concepts of print. Building Language for Literacy provides a variety of activities to help children understand the relation among letters, sounds, and meaning that create words. These are explored through shared readings, shared writing and children's independent writing activities.


Children's proficiency in letter naming is a well-established predictor of their end-of-year achievement.


Many children enter kindergarten with some knowledge of the alphabet, but it is important to extend and develop this knowledge. Leo the Letter-Loving Lobster is a willing assistant. Leo's alphabet cards and "Letter Lookout" tips in the lessons will help children identify letters and make connections between letters and sounds through experiences with literature, games, and letter, sound, and word activities.


. . . [I]ntroducing just a few letters at a time, rather than many, enhances mastery.


Leo's Letter Lookout
helps children learn letters by introducing a few letters at a time in each unit of instruction. Building Language for Literacy introduces letters of the alphabet through meaningful activities, such as shared readings of stories, poems, and songs, through learning center activities and through multiple exposures to Leo's alphabet. Several letters that are prominent in a print experience are explored at once and all letters are covered multiple times.


Popular rhyming books . . . may draw children's attention to rhyming patterns, serving as a basis for extending vocabulary.


One of the foundational goals of Building Language for Literacy is to develop phonological awareness. Reggie the Rhyming Rhino helps children develop an awareness of patterns and differences in the sounds of language through phonological awareness activities involving rhyme, song, poetry, and rhythm. Such manipulation of language expands children's vocabulary and increases their ability to use language for different purposes.


Capitalizing on the active and social nature of children's learning, early instruction must provide rich demonstrations, interactions, and models of literacy in the course of activities that make sense to young children.


Building Language for Literacy's
unique Blueprint for Literacy represents 24 model lessons in every area of the classroom. The model lessons uses the most current research to explain to teachers why each activity is important to a child's language development. Teachers use the model lessons, integrated into the program, for of 60 hours of professional development in the form of 24 6-step workshops for teachers.


Children must also learn about the relation between oral and written language and the relations between letters, sounds, and words.


Unlike many other educational products for young children, Building Language for Literacy stresses integration of language and literacy skills to help children develop rich and full understandings. The four foundational goals of Building Language for Literacy—oral language, phonological awareness, letter/sound knowledge, and print knowledge—interact in all aspects of the program. Activities routinely blend experiences and objectives to help children develop an understanding of the relation between letters, sounds, and words.


In classrooms built around a wide variety of print activities and in talking, reading, writing, playing, and listening to one another, children will want to read and write and feel capable that they can do so.


For children to experiment with their newly emerging literacy skills, they must be in a classroom that is print rich and offers a variety of activities that encourage children to talk, read, write, play, listen, and share their work. Building Language for Literacy provides such an environment. The program is designed to be interactive, playful, and creative in order to help children feel free to express their attempts at reading and writing in both large and small group activities and across all center areas.

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