Dramatic play with literacy props is an important part of early childhood environments because it promotes children's literacy development (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; McGee & Richgels, 1996; Neuman & Roskos, 1993). "Communicating in spoken language and in play are very closely related to communicating in written language," note McGee and Richgels (1996, p. 17). They add that "play provides a rich context for extending children's understandings about written language" (p. 288).
In their play, children can use a variety of literacy materials to act out everyday events requiring the use of reading and writing. "Sociodramatic play activities give children a chance to develop language and literacy skills, a deeper understanding of narrative, and their own personal responses to stories," state Burns, Griffin, and Snow (1999, p. 72).
Teachers can encourage literacy use in children's play by stocking centers with related literacy materials and participating in play activities. Teacher participation in play activities provides opportunities for modeling of more complex literacy behaviors. Yet "a guiding principle of play as a literacy learning opportunity is that it must remain the child's endeavor," caution McGee and Richgels (1996, p. 240); teachers must be careful not to intrude by "breaking the spell that children have cast with their play" (p. 240).
McGee and Richgels (1996) suggest that teachers take the following steps to plan literacy-rich play centers in the early childhood classroom: