Book Week in Early Childhood Services
Every year the Children’s Book Council of Australia brings books and children together for Book Week. Book Week is a celebration of Australian children’s literature and is often acknowledged in early childhood services with book character dress up days. However, why are educators doing this? What is the intentionality behind this practice? Has a dominant discourse for Book Week developed? Do educators jump onto the ‘dress up for Book Week’ bandwagon for fear of being irrelevant? I hope that educators are thinking beyond just ‘fun’?
Is Book Week an opportunity to focus on literacy?
Families often pressure early childhood educators to teach ‘literacy’ explicitly. Literacy is critically important, but before children can learn to read, they need to learn and develop some foundational skills first. These foundational skills, commonly known as ‘pre-literacy’ skills, include;
- listening to sounds,
- listening to words and knowing how to pronounce them
- listening to the rhythms and patterns of language; the rise and fall of speech
- developing vocabulary
- being able to articulate thoughts – communication
- knowing how to open a book and look at it from front to back rather than back to front
- knowing that printed words have meaning
- developing phonemic awareness
- knowing that words have meaning and beginning to recognise print.
Educators should always be intentional and reflective in their practice and the new National Quality Standard's (NQS) Exceeding Themes require educators to undertake critical reflection in every Standard, in every Quality Area. So, apart from dressing up, what else can educators do in Book Week to support children to develop pre-literacy skills and a love of literature? Here are a few ideas:
- Intentionally teach young children about respecting books. Highlight the importance of not stepping on books, being careful when turning the pages and putting the books away on the shelf when they have finished with them.
- Invite families to come into the centre during Book Week and read their favourite picture storybook to the children. Research shows that it is vital for children to observe positive reading behaviour from both men and women. Introduce a male reading program and encourage brothers, fathers or grandfathers to come in to read their favourite book.
- Involve children in a ‘book review’. Encourage each child to bring in a favourite book to share with the group. Each child could introduce their book to the group during the morning meeting time; summarise the storybook and explain why they love it. Alternatively, educators could interview children about their favourite book and document their thoughts and reflections for formative assessment.
Educators enjoy the favourite character dress up days for Book Week, but they should make sure it is not the only thing they do. They should ensure that they have critically reflected on why they are celebrating Book Week, ask themselves if they are intentional and they should conduct conversations with families to help them understand what literacy is and how this can be taught contextually in early childhood settings.