These videos capture moments that illustrate productive story and play-related interactions between children and adults. Young children learn many essential early literacy lessons with appropriate opportunities to explore print in the company of the people around them. The busy, often noisy pace of home and preschool life often makes it difficult for us to appreciate what and how learning is taking place. Like the layers of a butterfly’s wings, becoming literate is more complex than the surface features would suggest. Here’s a chance to slow down and watch some examples of Storyplay in action. The note accompanying each video highlights significant features of different literacy learning aspects.

These are grouped under various relevant literacy learning related categories, including book sharing, concepts of print, pretend play, mark making, emergent writing, emergent reading.

Book Sharing

What is in this book?

A gentle, delightful book-sharing moment at home, as an adult and child explore a picture book together. They affirm and motivate one another as they take turns to direct each other’s attention to notice what interests them on the pages. This helps the little boy concentrate for longer. As they point to items and name them, the adult smiles as he hears the little boy identify the hen in isiXhosa – nkuku.

Concepts of Print

Examining the detail

Two young boys concentrate for a short, but intense, period as they examine the back cover of their books. They take turns comparing and noticing what’s the same on each cover. They also point to the print and try to read, saying some words out loud, as if they are sounding out. They don’t know what the words ‘say’ yet, but they know they say something – an important early concept of print.

Learning about pages

As he explores the illustrations on the pages, the young boy’s finger actions suggest that he’s had more experience with screens than with paper. He tries to animate the illustrations on paper using what he knows works with screen images. He’ll adjust his actions when he has had more opportunities to work out how to handle books and how they work.

Retelling a story

The children have been listening to Abahlobo abathathu netekisi (Three Friends and a Taxi) written by Maryanne Bester and illustrated by Shayle Bester. Reading a book on her own, this little girl knows that the story she has heard is in this particular book. She uses the pictures as prompts to retell the story in her own way. She is remembering, reconstructing and perhaps trying out vocabulary that she heard in the story, to enrich her use of language. When she realises that the book is upside down, she knows to turn it round, displaying her knowledge of book orientation.

Pretend Play

The power of pretend

Young children are careful observers of the role models around them and they use pretend play to explore, make sense of and rehearse real life as they know it. In doing so, they create stories. Here, absorbed in being a mother with a baby, one girl leads the action. With baby on her back, she uses available props to help her to step into a grownup world. The book becomes the cellphone – and they record the moment. This kind of symbolic play, where children pretend something ‘stands for’ something else, underlies literacy learning, where print ‘stands for’ what the writer means to communicate.

A taxi ride

The children absorb themselves in the seriousness of pretending to travel by taxi. Valuing the use of print is integral to the experience: they have made money for tickets and to buy their provisions from the shop. Encouraged by the ECD practitioner, one child checks that she has all she needs in her bag, a little girl in sunglasses has her ticket, and another child brings her Simba chips. They are exploring personally relevant uses of print while their talk and actions take them on a journey together.

Caring for babies and animals

The children have listened to and discussed Umhlobo ka-Asanda (A friend for Asanda) written by Carole Bloch and illustrated by Bev de Meyer. The story’s theme is friendship, and they and their teacher have been discussing what friends do – care and share. They are now playing with the various animals in the story, which have been offered to them. The story has enriched their imaginations and the children are immersed in pretending to take care of animals and babies, making sure that they are comfortable and fed.

Emergent Writing

Serious money

This emergent writing forms part of play that extends the children’s interest in taxi riding. They have listened to and discussed Abahlobo abathathu netekisi (Three Friends and a Taxi) written by Maryanne Bester and illustrated by Shayle Bester. Adults have shown the children examples of money and they have gone outside the preschool to look at cars and the number plates on the front and back of cars. They have made number plates. The children dictated what should be written on each one with adults modelling the writing. Now, the young boy is making money – he has looked at a R100 note and is trying out his own version of this. He has worked out and included all the parts for 100, but doesn’t orient the 0’s as they are placed conventionally and he doesn’t yet know that an extra 0 means a different amount. Engrossed in the play, he is supplying his friends with cash, thereby exploring a most powerful function of print, while he also practices the skills of forming letters, numerals, and how to cut.