NAEYC Conference: A Reminder on the Importance of Books and Play

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be a part of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference taking place here in Washington. I presented a bright and early 8 am session titled, “Hands-on Activities for Global Citizenship in the Primary Classroom,” and was fortunate to find myself spending 90 minutes with a wonderful group of early-education, early-risers.

What struck me the most about my time at the conference was not that ECE teachers agree on the importance of environmental and global education (luckily, that appears to be well-understood) but rather, the ease with which I got lost in the exhibit hall, wandering among the piles of children’s literature and loads of resources that begged young students to touch, move, explore, and listen.

It is no surprise that these are the resources ECE teachers are hungry for. Experts agree that young students benefit from concrete hands-on experiences where they explore the world through movement, play and sensory experiences. It is also widely known that interactions with literature at a young age helps to shape students’ world view and is a crucial part of children’s language development. As I wandered around, I couldn’t help but think about how Population Education materials support these best practices. For instance, students learning to cooperate with each other by pretending to be a class millipede in Creatures in Motion, are using movement and play to explore the impact of their actions in the class community while in the lesson Helping Hands, students listen to and then re-create the story of “Stone Soup”, using literature to develop a sense of empathy and community service. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our Recommended Children’s Literature list provides countless ways to integrate literacy with PopEd lessons and a quick glance of our K-2 resources, shows strategies ranging from Reader’s Theater to a gardening lab and cookie decorating.

It was an honor to be a part of the NAEYC convention and to share our resources with early childhood educators from around the country.