Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Carole Pelttari


This study explores the ways in which children develop literacy skills through play, and investigates the teacher’s role is in this literacy related play. Specifically, it focuses on the ways that preschool children develop literacy through free play and structured play, and how the level of teacher involvement in this play affects the children’s literacy development. This study took place over a nine week period, focusing on three preschool age focal children during observations of the children’s play sessions in the preschool room of a daycare located in and affiliated with a church in a rural town in Western New York. The collected data included field notes, interviews with children, and transcripts of videotapes.

Findings suggest that children do develop literacy skills through both free play and structured play, and that the level of teacher involvement in the children’s play affects the children’s development of literacy skills. Many different types of play and play contexts are conducive to the development of literacy skills in preschool children. Recommendations for future research include exploring how literacy-related play differs for children of different ages, genders, or socioeconomic statuses, investigating how the addition of reading props affects literacy-related play, and observing the children’s free play after teacher-directed play activities to determine if those activities would have any impact on the literacy-related play activities in which the children would engage in during free play.

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