________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 2 . . . . September 9, 2011


The Cornerstones to Early Literacy: Childhood Experiences that Promote Learning in Reading, Writing and Oral Language.

Katherine Luongo-Orlando.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2010.
168 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-257-9.

Subject Headings:
Language arts (Elementary).
English language-Study and teaching (Elementary).


Review by Gina Varty.

**** /4



Literacy develops from simple childhood experiences such as banging on pots and pans, making crayon markings on a page, reciting songs and verses, and climbing onto an adult's lap to listen to a story. This book explores the many pathways to literacy.

With these sentences, taken from the first paragraph of the "Introduction," author Katherine Luongo-Orlando sets the foundation on which she builds detailed descriptions, strategies and activities for the cornerstones to literacy.

      Throughout the seven chapters of this book, margin notes, quotes and student samples, Katherine Luongo-Orlando's experience and scholarship are very evident. She has 18 years of experience as an elementary classroom teacher, workshop leader, curriculum developer, consultant and university researcher. Her graduate work involved exploring the importance of play, talk, language, games, print encounters, reading, writing, the arts and home practices in the development of early literacy. The depth of scholarship is found in her reference list that contains 150 sources as well as in the detailed index.

      Chapter 1 starts with Play Experiences. Driven by the imagination, play is self-initiated, engaging, spontaneous and fun. Forty-three benefits of play are listed, six categories and descriptions of children's play are described, and the theoretical foundations of the play-literacy connection are reviewed, as is the role of the facilitator and the play environment. The chapter concludes with play-based literacy activities and a two-page list of materials for play centers.

      Subsequent chapters contain the same rich detail:

Chapter 2 ~~ Oral Language Opportunities -- Children's Talk
    - how to create oral language events through conversation and storytelling

Chapter 3 ~~ Language and Word Play
    - exploration of folk literature and a range of activities from action songs to tongue twisters

Chapter 4 ~~ Print Encounters
    - table of the type / sources / and features of environmental print
    - discussion of concepts from alphabet play to print tracking skills

Chapter 5 ~~ Reading Events
    - criteria for classroom book selection
    - checklist of types of books for classroom resources
    - reading strategy checklist
    - sample student responses
    - suggested list of titles

Chapter 6 ~~ Writing Experiences
    - how to support early writers through materials and routines
    - strategies, activities and resources for correct spelling and publishing

Chapter 7 ~~ Other Pathways to Literacy
    - fostering home literacy practices
    - exploring literacy through nature, art and technology

      Although the literacy strategies and language activities are geared to children in the formative, emergent years from pre-K through Grade 3, many of the activities, responses and checklists could be adapted for older children as well. After all, all students, including reluctant speakers, readers and writers who have positive, creative and active learning experiences through playing, storytelling, reproducing and publishing, will be inspired to grow as individuals. As educators, this is a consummation devoutly to be wished. "Life is a playground filled with learning potential." This step-by-step book will set teachers on the path to building a strong literacy foundation and inspire their own creative play. Bang the pot loudly!

Highly Recommended.

Gina Varty is a teacher-librarian at Inglewood Elementary School in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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