Children engage with a range of texts throughout early childhood, including fiction and nonfiction books; as well magazines, brochures, posters; various art forms like poetry, drawing, painting, and sculpture; as well as multimedia and information communication technology (ICT) texts.
The types of texts that children create also expand and grow in complexity as they develop, allowing them to use texts for a variety of personal and social purposes:
[Children] create and display their information in a way that suits different audiences and purposes. Victorian early years learning and development framework (VEYLDF) 2016
This section will explore the use of texts for a range of purposes (personal, imaginative, informative), types of children's literature, and multimedia and ICT texts.
This learning focus is about developing children's awareness of how texts work, and how a variety of texts can be used to communicate.
This learning focus concerns the functions and purposes of texts; that is how they are used (as per the four resources model: Freebody and Luke, 1990). This learning focus differs from making meaning and expressing ideas (emergent literacy), which looks at how children engage in making meaning from texts and create meaning within their texts.
The importance of exploring and creating texts
Children's development of literacy skills is supported by frequent, and rich experiences with print and texts. The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF, 2016) highlights that children “engage with a range of texts and get meaning from these texts” (Outcome 5.2).
This includes exploring and understanding texts written by others (linking to emergent reading comprehension). It also includes children creating their texts, to record, reflect, entertain, inform, instruct, and even persuade others (linking to emergent written expression).
This exploration and creation of texts not only enables children to express themselves through a range of media but also paves the way for children's later literacy success (see MacKenzie and Veresov, 2013).
The VEYLDF (2016) also emphasises that children “begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work” (Outcome 5.4) and “use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking” (Outcome 5.5).
In this way, developing children's competence in exploring and creating a variety of texts prepares them for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century (see Saracho, 2017a, for discussion).
Using texts for a range of purposes
Texts are created to achieve certain purposes (for example writing a letter, telling a story, sharing information).
There are many more kinds of texts that can be covered in detail in this toolkit. The following 3 types (genres) are age-appropriate for early childhood settings, and have been adapted from Fellowes and Oakley (2014):
- personal (expressive) texts, including letters, diaries, journals, and notes
- imaginative (narratives) texts, including stories, fairytales, poems, and play scripts
- informative (expository) texts, including reports, explanations, procedures, and persuasive writing
Different types of texts have specific features including:
- the topic and content
- the way information is organised (text structure)
- types of sentences used (for example present or past tense)
- diverse vocabulary
While certain types of texts will have specific features that children will become familiar with, Fellowes and Oakley (2014, p. 379) remind educators that:
Text composition rarely completely conforms to a single model standard. Communicative purposes are achieved using more interesting and dynamic texts when compositional flexibility is applied…. Over time and with the right experiences, children will likely develop a more innate ability to apply structure to the texts they write, and a more sophisticated and flexible command of the organisational and language requirements.
Personal (expressive) texts
Personal (expressive) texts refer to various forms of writing, used for recording, sharing, or describing personal experiences, events, or ideas. The kinds of personal texts that children would encounter in everyday life include:
- letters, cards, and messages from family and friends
- digital messages, emails, posts, and other communications sent via online media.
These are likely to be multimodal: they may have visual (pictures and images), audiovisual (voice, music, video), as well as written words. They will also have features specific to the personal text type, for example, a letter starting with Dear [Name].
Creating personal texts is a useful opportunity for developing emergent literacy during writing with children. Examples of personal texts that children create include mark makings, drawings, writings (and annotations by adults) for:
- recounting an event
- expressing feelings or reactions
- sending a message to family and friends
Children can begin to write personal (expressive) texts when they start using drawing, writing materials, or digital media. Through intentional learning experiences, children can learn to construct texts relating to their personal experiences (for example a visit to the zoo), people they know (my family, my friends), or past/upcoming events (incursions/excursions).
Imaginative (narrative) texts
The two main types of imaginative texts are narratives (stories) and poems. Both are forms of text that come from the writer's imagination.
Stories are a medium with which all children can become familiar and enjoy. Narratives can be oral or written. They can also be presented through art and theatre, or through audio-visual media like film, television, sound and music.
Every story has at least a start, middle, and end.
- once, a boy called Jack traded his cow for some magic beans
- from the beans sprung a huge beanstalk, which lead Jack to a giant's castle in the sky
- when Jack tried to steal the treasures, the giant chased him down the stalk. Jack cut the stalk, and the giant fell
All narrative texts have the elements of setting, character, plot, and themes or messages within the story. Most stories will have a complete “episode” (Story Grammar: Stein and Glenn, 1975).
For more information, refer to Stories and narratives learning focus.
Children’s exposure to narrative texts is mainly through picture storybooks. However, other narrative text forms include art, design and theatre, or multimedia texts like film, television, sound and music.
More examples of children’s literature is below.
Through writing experiences, children’s learning can be scaffolded to create their narrative texts. It may be a challenge to determine when children’s writing (including mark makings, drawings, written letters and words -and annotations by adults), counts as a ‘story’. However, it is important to treat children’s drawing and writing as communicative and to encourage children to explain or express what their work means, through verbal or nonverbal communication.
Some examples of narrative texts that children may begin to draw and write in early childhood include:
- mark marking and scribbling
- drawings and paintings (with or without annotations)
- comic strips
- digital drawings/paintings
- photos, videos, sound recordings, and perhaps a combination of these
- early written stories with approximations of letters and symbols, and images
- images accompanied by a few sentences as part of a written story
Poetry is a form of writing that helps readers to hear, see, and feel what is being described. Common forms of poetry include limericks, acrostics, ballads, haikus and couplets. Poems often include language elements such as:
- repetition of words, phrases, and sentences
- alliteration (for example ten tiny toys)
- onomatopoeia (where a word's sounds mimic the sound being described, for example, ding, buzz, thud)
- imagery, metaphor, simile (refer to Higher order language)
Poetry and rhyme are often used in children’s literature and music. See these verses from A House for Donfinkle by Choechoe Brereton:
Up high in the grasslands
where Wooble Beasts roam,
is building his home.
The mud walls are perfect,
the door just divine,
the Windows are beech wood,
the porch is all pine.
When scaffolded by educators, children can enjoy engaging with poetic texts and start to become aware of language elements like rhyme, alliteration, and repetition.
Educators may also facilitate co-writing of poetry with children using basic forms of poetry like haiku.
The following examples come from a four-year-old kindergarten room at the University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre.
They were composed by children, in collaboration with their educators/teachers who helped scaffold their expression, and scribe their ideas down:
A flower and a snail
Talk and listen.
They are friends.
They have reflection
Of the sky on them.
(Examples of children’s haiku. Four-year-old kindergarten room at the University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre.)
An example of a rhyming poem composed by a four-year-old:
I am falling into the water
And my seagull is falling with me.
We are falling into the sea.
There are flowers in the sea.
(Examples of child’s rhyming poem. Four-year-old kindergarten room at the University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre.)
Here are some other examples of poems by children who had been composing in collaboration with their educators/teachers across the Kindergarten year:
Butterflies look different
on a spring day.
They hide within their wings.
When I see logged forest
my heart breaks
The Sun is playing
with a ball
on a soft cloud.
(Examples of children’s haiku. Four-year-old kindergarten room at the University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre.)
Her long muddy dress
Her long muddy dress is dotted
with sunny wattles.
her pockets are filled
with gumnuts, feathers and leaves;
She is a house
for noisy birds,
pink dolphins of the past;
She flows from the mountains
of shadows and mist
to a bay that's not too far;
Oooo, who is she?
Who is she?
(Examples of group poems, composed during group time. Four-year-old kindergarten room at the University of Melbourne Early Learning Centre.)
The above examples demonstrate how children can be facilitated in their expression, through collaborative writing experiences that slowly build from simple to more complex poems.
Note: Children composed poems orally and educators/teachers scribed their ideas. Afterwards, some children started to write (some of) their poems in their handwriting with support.
Informative (expository) texts
Texts that explain, discuss, or provide information are often called informative (or expository texts). These texts can use a combination of written, visual, and auditory information to convey messages. Three main types of expository texts are informative, procedural, and persuasive texts.
Informative texts include descriptions, explanations, reports, discussions, and lists. The purpose of this kind of communication is to provide information about a particular topic.
Informative texts can include several features including a clear topic or theme, descriptions and details about the topic, and a conclusion summarising information in the text. Informative texts can also include visuals - diagrams, graphs, charts, pictures, and maps. If they are a digital informative text, like a webpage or app, they may also include audio and video.
Some examples of functional informative texts for children to engage with and write, in collaboration with educators, have been suggested by Fellowes and Oakley (2014 p. 377), including:
- preparing for an excursion by writing a reminder list of the things to be taken
- talking and then drawing/writing about favourite animals or places and assembling them to make a book
- drawing/writing labels for material containers and special areas of the room so they can be easily located
Recipes are a common form of procedural texts. When texts include images and symbols it provides opportunities for children to engage with and use these texts before they can formally read print. Photo:
The purpose of procedural texts is to provide instructions in a logical sequence to achieve a goal. Common examples of instructions/procedures that children can explore and create include:
- connective blocks instructions (for example Duplo® or Lego®)
- instructions for games (for example how to play Simon Says)
- treasure hunt instructions/maps
When given a set of instructions, these components are usually included:
- an introduction with an overview of the goal/product
- a list of materials/items needed to complete the task (for example ingredients, resources, parts)
- and a sequence of directions that provide step-by-step details
Instructions/procedures often include visual, written (and sometimes audio-visual) information.
Persuasive texts are designed to convince someone of an idea or opinion. In written form, these texts are not often encountered in early childhood settings but may be introduced in functional ways that support children's specific strengths and capabilities, including:
- posters showing why people should respect and care for one another
- a poster or sign providing reasons to recycle
- a song or video talking about why art is fun
- writing a sign to go over a fish tank advising people about required behaviour when feeding the fish, or cleaning their tank
Persuasive texts have the following main features:
- a central idea of which the reader/audience is being convinced
- key reasons/arguments to support the idea
- examples or evidence that demonstrate why the arguments are true
In this section, an overview of types of children’s literature will be explored. Note: These categories cross over significantly! Some books are in multiple categories and can be used for multiple purposes.
Note that educators play a significant role in creating intentional learning experiences with texts (see the teaching practice, reading with children).
Some broad categories of texts include:
- Include various kinds of stories (narratives), nursery rhymes
- Can be fictional, or stories based on real-life (factual)
- Australian and international books
- Themes and concepts from multiple cultures and times
Non-fiction or concept books
- Introduce new vocabulary, concepts and knowledge
- Engagingly provide information, to develop children's concept knowledge and vocabulary
- For example, Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo
- For example, Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae
Rhyming or songbooks
- Books based on a song or rhyme
- Allow children to learn the words of the book and chant or sing along
- Develops phonological awareness and vocabulary
- Books with a series of pictures that show the narrative
- Allow adults or children to narrate the story
- For example, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
- For example, The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
- Pop-up, lift-the-flap, foldouts, touch and feel books
- Activity books such as pasting, gluing, colouring, and talking books
- Interactive opportunities encouraging children to interact with books, and develop fine motor skills
- For example, Dear Zoo and the Spot book series by Eric Hill
- For example, Snip Snap Pop Up Fun by Jonathan Litton
- repetition and reinforcement encourage children intrinsically
- allow for opportunities to predict what will happen, or what word will be next
- children can use these books for independent reading and start to tell the story in their own words
- For example, Brown bear, Brown bear, What So You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
- For example, Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
Alphabet, counting and word books
- Provide models of letters, numbers and words in simple and bright books
- Children can often begin to identify letters, numbers and words using these books
Sturdy board, fabric or plastic books
- Well-constructed, sturdy books, for children to handle at any age, but especially easier to hold and manipulate for infants and toddlers
- Give children the opportunity to handle books without worrying about ripping pages
Real-life themes and multi/cross-cultural books
- Deal with real-life issues in a sensitive and authentic way
- Provide opportunities to develop empathy and discuss feelings
- For example family issues, new babies, moving house
- For example books about other cultures, lifestyles, and individual differences
- Encourage awareness and appreciation of diversity
- For example, The When I'm Feeling … series by Trace Moroney
- For example, Kangaroos Hop by Ros Moriarty
Bilingual or multilingual books
- Provide text in English and other languages, including several Aboriginal languages
- Promote diversity, inclusivity and encourage understanding of other cultures, traditions and histories
- Audio-visual combinations of books with CDs or DVDs, which provide additional ways for children to experience and engage with multilingual literature
- Reference books (Illustrated dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopaedia)
- Paperback books for young children
- Magazines (and other information texts like brochures, flyers, posters)
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) texts
- Opportunities for children to compare different media, even at a very young age. Examples are available below.
Multimedia and ICT texts
Multimedia or ICT texts refer to the different texts and media that children may engage with including internet sites, apps and programs, film, videos, music, audio, photographs – and many others! These texts are often:
- multimodal (integrating images, written words and/or sound), and
- interactive (responsive to touch, voice, typing, or other inputs)
It is essential for educators to be aware of ways to use multimedia and ICT texts strategically for intentional teaching, as the VEYLDF (2016) notes that children “use digital technologies and multimedia resources to communicate, play and learn”.
Many children come to early childhood settings with an awareness of ICT tools including smartphones, tablets, computers and digital toys. Through engagement with this digital technology in the home, children may develop a range of digital skills outside of early childhood settings.
Some benefits of multimedia and ICT texts include, that they:
- are an engaging and interactive medium
- provide children with multimodal learning
- provide access to information from global and diverse sources
- allow children to develop their digital literacy skills
By using technology purposively and strategically with children, educators can enhance play and learn in traditional contexts.
Strategies for exploring and creating multimedia and ICT texts
These are some suggested strategies to make the best use of multimedia and ICT texts in early childhood settings:
- ensure intentional use for a specific learning purpose
- embed language modelling and concept development within ICT experiences
- allow time for purposeful play and exploration
- use digital technology to allow for equity of opportunity
- when technical difficulties arise, use these as learning experiences, to scaffold children's use of digital technology
- be aware of child safety and use of approved digital technology policies
- create clear guidelines for use of digital tools
- ensure adequate supervision of children using digital technology
- plan experiences to build upon children's previous successes with digital technology
Adapted from Alper (2013) and Lim (2012).
Theory to practice
In line with the Four Resources Model (Freebody &Luke, 1990), exploring and creating texts is about children learning how to use texts (for example becoming Text Users).
By engaging with a range of different text types (genres), children learn about how texts work, their main features, and how to use them for a variety of social (and eventually academic) purposes.
The Text User knows about the different functions of texts, and their features —the way texts are structured, their sequence of components, and the kinds of language used within them. For example, children learn the differences between personal, imaginative, and informative texts. They also recognise similar texts by their features and organisation.
In addition, for children soon to transition to school, they may start to analyse texts, as a form of emergent critical literacy in collaboration with educators. This could include scaffolding children’s thinking by asking them what they liked about certain texts, and why they did/did not like a text. In Freebody and Luke’s (1990) model, this is referred to as the Text Analyst.
By engaging purposively with a range of books and resources, children are being prepared for the diverse texts they will encounter once they transition to primary school. These engagement opportunities include:
- learning how texts work
- making meaning from texts they engage with
- creating their texts (in visual, written, or multimedia form).
Research reviews show that educators should choose both narrative and information texts to explore with children, but that they need to:
(a) be visually stimulating and aesthetically pleasing to motivate children to interact with the books, (b) encourage children to re-read them several times, (c) be of interest to … children, (d) be familiar to the children, and (e) reflect their home environment and daily lives. - Saracho (2017b, p. 561)
Evidence shows that making meaning from and writing narrative texts is an important skill for early reading and writing success (Saracho, 2017b).
In addition, growing research shows the benefits of informational (non-fiction) texts in early childhood. Price, Bradley and Smith (2012) found that educators engaged in more active discussion about informational texts, than when reading storybooks.
Other research has shown that when children explore information text by themselves, they are more likely to mimic the language used by adults during reading aloud, than with storybooks (Massey, 2014).
Other evidence shows the importance of illustrations for facilitating children’s meaning-making and recall of stories (Greenhoot, Beyer and Curtis, 2014); and new evidence suggests that using wordless picture books can advance the quality and quantity of children’s language production during shared reading experiences (Chaparro-Moreno et al., 2017).
Finally, while more research is needed to determine any potential limitations with digital texts over paper-based texts, digital storybooks appear to provide benefits in children’s engagement with texts (Bus, Takacs, Kegel, 2015).
Links to VEYLDF
Outcome 2: community
Children become aware of fairness
- begin to understand and evaluate ways in which texts construct identities and create stereotypes
Outcome 5: communication
Children engage with a range of texts and get meaning from these texts:
- listen and respond to sounds and patterns in speech, stories and rhymes in context
- view and listen to printed, visual and multimedia texts and respond with relevant gestures, actions, comments and/or questions
- begin to understand key literacy and numeracy concepts and processes, such as the sounds of language, letter-sound relationships, concepts of print and the ways that texts are structured
- explore texts from a range of different perspectives and begin to analyse the meanings
- actively use, engage with and share the enjoyment of language and texts in a range of ways
- recognise and engage with written and oral culturally constructed texts
Children express ideas and make meaning using a range of media:
- share the stories and symbols of their own cultures and re-enact well-known stories
Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work:
- develop an understanding that symbols are a powerful means of communication and that ideas, thoughts and concepts can be represented through them
- begin to be aware of the relationships between oral, written and visual representations
- begin to recognise patterns and relationships and the connections between them
- begin to sort, categorise, order and compare collections and events and attributes of objects and materials in their social and natural worlds
- listen and respond to sounds and patterns in speech, stories and rhyme
- draw on the memory of a sequence to complete a task
- draw on their experiences in constructing meaning using symbols
Children use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking:
- use information and communication technologies to access images and information, explore diverse perspectives and make sense of their world
- use information and communications technologies as tools for designing, drawing, editing, reflecting and composing
- engage with technology for fun and to make meaning
Experiences plans and videos
Early communicators (birth - 18 months
Early language users (12 - 36 months)
Language and emergent literacy learners (30 -60 months)
Learning foci and teaching practices