Promoting a Literacy Rich Environment

October 26, 2023 7:50 am
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What do we mean by ‘literacy rich’? 

A literacy-rich environment can be defined as a space that inspires engagement in literacy-based activities.  It is a way to encourage children to notice and interact with provision which facilitates literacy development in preparation for reading and writing. 

What does this look like in practice? 

A setting that promotes literacy within the environment will have a range of diverse resources that are of high quality, interesting to the child, and through which the child can see themselves and their community represented. 

The environment will include a variety of print which will include books of different genres such as picture books, fiction, and poetry.  These will expose children to fonts and illustrations which enable children to understand what constitutes a book, recognising that it is formed of a cover, title, author, illustrator, page number, etc in order to develop book knowledge.   

Books are an important aspect of a literacy-rich environment. CLPE (2023, p.10) proposes that ‘reading aloud and revisiting high-quality, well-crafted books exposes children to vocabulary and language models that they wouldn’t otherwise hear. Planning for these literate acts through sustained work with these books can close gaps in attainment and engagement.’  This requires critical consideration of the types of books children are accessing in your provision, as well as those you are reading with them. 

It is important for settings to have a quiet book corner where children can have time to space to engage with reading and storytelling.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that children need to read all of the words – they can still ‘read’ a story using the illustrations or from memory.  Props in the reading area can support this, such as puppets, soft toys, story stones, and small world resources.  However, it’s important that books are not only in the book corner.  For an effective literacy-rich environment, books should be available throughout the provision, in all areas of play.  These could link to particular play spaces, such as construction-themed books in your block area, cookery books in your role play, or identification books in the outdoor area.  Ensure these are of a high quality so that children are exposed to valuable texts that support their interests and development. 

The need to ensure children are accessing high-quality books is more important than ever.  Research from Chase Bank and The National Literacy Trust has discovered that 20% of parents and carers are buying fewer books for their children as a result of the cost of living crisis.   

Besides books, the environment will also enable children to engage with other resources which encourage their understanding and knowledge within a literacy-rich space.  These could relate to children’s experiences, which make the resources authentic rather than tokenistic.  Examples are:  

  • Menus 
  • Tickets 
  • Food packaging 
  • Magazines 
  • Leaflets
  • Posters 
  • Greeting cards 
  • Forms  
  • Flashcards

All of these are functional ways of facilitating a literacy-rich setting.  They can act as prompts for writing, encouraging children to interact with text in a child-friendly, real-world way.   

Creating a literacy-rich environment does not need to be time-consuming or expensive.  Involve the families by asking them to collect items from home that they can bring in for a display.  This might include food packaging, magazines, and print in a child’s home language. By involving families, you are going to get a wider, diverse range of text and print which are likely to be more relevant to children’s home lives, therefore carrying greater meaning.  

Children can also be encouraged to interact with a literacy-rich environment, such as through routines like self-registration and finding their own peg name.  It is also valuable for adults to model how text can be written and read, illustrating that print carries meaning.   This could be through scribing children’s stories, helping them write labels for their models, writing their names on paintings, and reading instructions.  Draw children’s attention to print as they are engaged in activities, from reading the writing on a seed packet to ingredients needed for baking.  This can help to create an immersive environment rather than us just expecting children to independently engage in a literacy rich environment.  Consider the language you are using when encouraging children to notice print, remembering the vocabulary we are using can also influence their understanding and interaction with the environment. 

As well as the provision within your setting, think beyond this and the opportunities for exploring a literacy-rich environment in the community.  Walks around the local neighbourhood will expose children to road signs, shop names, street signs, displays, advertising boards, posters, and notices.  All of these offer a different context to language, giving opportunities for discussion about instructions and how information is presented.  


Remember that you can also support families to extend children’s learning through a literacy-rich environment.  Consider some of your practices and whether these could incorporate more parental involvement.  Book-lending libraries are a way to inspire reading at home, as well as book swap events, book recommendations, and parent workshops.   

Most of all, remember that the environment belongs to the children and therefore should reflect their interests, needs, and identities.  The resources you include must be diverse rather than just representing a white, western perspective.  Remember to consider a child’s innate drive to be curious and how this can be built on to inspire learning.