Literacy is a vital part of a child's success now and in the future as an adult, which is why a literacy learning center is a must-have for preschool classrooms and child care facilities. Literacy centers help ensure that children have access to a variety of books and literacy tools to practice reading and writing and increase their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Reading also sparks children's imaginations and helps them learn about the world around them.
Figuring out the best way to set up your literacy center and deciding which materials will capture the attention of the children in your care can be a daunting process, especially if you are a new teacher or are working with a small space. Here are a few steps you can use to put together a literacy learning center that will encourage children to read and write while helping kids take a literary tour of the world:
1. Finalize the Size and Location of Your Literacy Center
When deciding on the size and location of your literacy center you should consider several factors:
- The dimensions of the room.
- The number of other learning centers in the space.
- The number of children in your class or program.
- The number of children that will be using the literary center at one time.
- The number of books you would like to provide for children at one time.
Try to accommodate 3-4 children at a time in your literacy center, but the number of children accommodated can be smaller if needed. Preschool centers also have the option of creating a central library and literacy center for classrooms and families to use.
Your literacy center should be located in a relatively quiet area of the classroom or child care center. Literacy centers usually have a low noise level, but the noise level can rise if children are reading to each other or are listening to an audio book. Consider locating the literacy center close to other centers that have a quieter noise level, such as the art center or technology center.
If you would like a little more help in planning your classroom layout, How to Plan a Great Classroom Layout (Preschool Edition) and our MyKaplan FloorPlanner tool are both excellent support resources for educators.
2. Select Furniture that Makes the Space Comfortable and Organized
Your literacy center should invite children to sit down and read a story or practice writing their name. Children who struggle with reading will often refuse to read in places they don't feel comfortable. Add pillows, stuffed animals, and bean bag chairs to the space to create a relaxed and cozy environment for children. Tables and chairs are also needed in the space to give children a work area in which they can write stories or practice writing sentences.
Keep the space organized with various book storage units, including book displays, book shelves, and book theme centers. Try to have at least one book display in the space since books will appeal more to children if they can actually see the book covers. A book bench is also a great way to provide comfortable seating and additional storage. Consider using a bulletin board room divider to showcase children's stories and writing achievements at a height level they can easily see.
3. Provide a Quality Book Collection for the Children in Your Care
A quality book collection should include a wide variety of books that reflect the interests, backgrounds, and experiences of the children in your care. Offer children a mix of factual books, picture books, storybooks, and poetry books to read. Read-along and audio books are another great way to help children develop a positive relationship with books and reading.
The books in your literacy center should also represent a variety of topics, including families, communities, careers, childhood experiences, cultural diversity, fantasy, seasonal/holidays, true stories, diverse abilities, nature and science, history, and humor. Be sure to also include books that are related to the topics you will be covering in class.
The number of books offered in your literacy center is ultimately up to you and your school directors, but a good goal number is 3-5 books for each of the children in your care. Be sure to check out our wide selection of children's books, including award winners, big books, board books, book sets, cloth and vinyl books, leveled readers, audio books, and many more!
4. Facilitate Literacy Learning with Reading and Writing Activities
Encourage children to practice writing or to create their own stories by providing paper, pencils, and markers at tables in the literacy center. Keep posters or lists of the alphabet, numbers, children's names, and basic words or sentences close to tables in the literacy area. This will help children learn to write and reinforce topics they may be learning in class. Consider including small chalkboards and dry erase boards or other writing aides in your literacy center as well.
Your literacy center should also include a variety of age-appropriate literacy games and activities. Here is a list of suggested materials you can include in your literacy center to help children learn more about reading and writing and develop their literacy skills:
Alphabet Knowledge Materials - Learning the alphabet and the sounds associated with letters is one of the first literacy skills children develop, so make sure your learning center includes fun books, blocks, stamps, magnetic letters, and other alphabet activities. If you have children in your class who have special needs or are bilingual, be sure to offer alphabet materials in Braille and Spanish.
Assessment and Intervention Materials - Keep track of literacy milestones and help struggling readers with age-appropriate assessment and intervention materials. Nemours® BrightStart!, for example, offers a variety of tools that can help you track any concerns about a child's reading readiness and reading progress.
Early Literacy Materials - Puzzles, language flash cards, language photo cards, and other materials are all great ways to encourage early literacy in young children.
Electronic Aids - Be sure to include electronic aids for language and literacy in your literacy center. Children will love using electronic devices, such as Talk Blocks or Hot Dots® Jr. materials, to participate in fun reading, vocabulary, and language development activities.
Games and Puzzles - Offering interactive games and puzzles in your literacy center will help children learn about the alphabet, sequencing, rhyming, matching, sentences, compound words, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
Phonics Materials - You can help children build phonemic awareness by offering phonics games and activities in your literacy center. Sorting trays and games that focus on sounds and phonics will be fun for children to complete as a learning center activity.
Pocket Charts and Stands - Clear pocket charts and stands are a must-have for your literacy center. You can use word strips and pocket charts to introduce words and sentences or use them as an alphabet chart.
Sight Words - Leveled flash cards and word string ups are both great activities you can offer in your literacy center to help children increase their vocabulary and identify common words.
Learn about other materials you can include in your literacy center by browsing our language and literacy section. Once you've completed these four steps, your literacy center will be a fun and comfortable space for the children in your care to expand their literacy skills.