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Thematic Literature-Based Learning in Your Own Home

Story Play
Story Play™
is a set of developmentally appropriate activities that foster a love of literature and reading in young children. This program makes it easy for the busy parent to teach their children at home.

Our integrated curriculum activities are based on well-loved stories (both classic and new). A wonderful variety of open-ended, developmentally appropriate activities extend learning into the areas of drama, literature, writing, art, science, games, cooking, music and math. Related templates are included with each theme.

About Story Play™

Piaget, a Swiss Psychologist, believed that children learn best through the senses by manipulating concrete objects before moving to an abstract concept. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) states: "Children do not become literate automatically; careful planning and instruction are essential. Adults—parents and teachers—must give young children the experiences they need, including exposure to books; rich conversations; experiences in drawing, pretend play, and other symbolic activities; and instruction in recognizing letters and making connections between letters and sounds. At all times, experiences should be challenging yet achievable, creating interest, engagement, and responsiveness."

Discovering it impossible to find a curriculum that embraced the core philosophies of Piaget and NAEYC, Joyce Harlow developed her own thematic literature based curriculum called Story Play™. From a designated story she integrated beginning writing, emergent reading, art, math and science. This then became the thread that connected the whole instead of fragmented pieces that didn’t fit, make sense or work together.

Little Red HenJoyce Harlow has used the program she developed for over twenty years with children two years old through kindergarten. Not only do children read “Key Words” but they also begin writing their version of the story in their own “Shape Book”. Three, four and five year olds use key words for beginning writing by first tracing and then writing the words independently.

Art, Math and Sciences activities are pulled from the story so that everything is connected to the chosen piece of literature. Additional Enrichment Activities are included to extend and enhance the theme.

Recognized for the proven validity of the program, Independent School Districts as well as many private and religious schools seek out Joyce Harlow for teacher inservice and training.

Now Story Play has been adapted for parents who want to enhance the learning of their own child. The condensed version is ideal for the child enrolled in a pre-school program, as well as for the stay at home parent that is looking for creative, fun and easy educational activities. Not only do children learn to read but they also become authors and illustrators of their own stories.



About the Author

Joyce Harlow holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood. She established two pre-schools in Kentucky before moving to Texas where she established Summerfield Academy in 1985. Joyce Harlow, a validator and mentor for The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), researched how children learn, and created a set of developmentally appropriate activities.

Joyce Harlow
Joyce Harlow



How The Program Works:

Step 1: Read the book for the designated thematic unit of study. (Book may be purchased or borrowed from the library.)
Step 2: Cut apart the pre-printed key words for flash cards. Verbally introduce key words. Child repeats the words. Once the child is familiar with the words they can be traced or written into their own "Key Word Book". Click to download detailed instructions for the Key Word Book.
Step 3: Help child trace, cut out and staple the "Shape Book". Child can then illustrate his/her own version of the story and dictate it to the parent. The parent writes the child's story on each page near the illustrations. Some children will use their own invented spelling to write their own words.
Step 4: Do the related art, snack and science/discovery activities.
Step 5: Create a number book related to the theme. Click to download detailed instructions for the Number Book.
Step 6: Make the optional Simpletees™ costumes and use props to dramatize the story.

Note: To immerse the child in the story, the book will be read multiple times. Read story before the introduction of key words, before writing the shape book, and before other activities when appropriate. A must read as a bedtime event.

Each downloadable thematic unit contains all the instructions, templates and the pre-made word cards for the book. The supply (shopping) list in each unit makes pre-planning easy. The word cards are in both modern and block text. Check with your school district to see which form of text they are using.

phonics Making apple piespainting Maisy


I fully endorse “Story Play” and fervently wish all parents and teachers would replace worksheets and dull, mindless work with this sound literature-based integrated program. More... ~ Joyce Armstrong Carroll, Ed.D., H.L.D.

Story Play keeps the element of fun in learning! ~ More... Christine Cook, Kindergarten Teacher and Parent

I am now being visited by former students that are enrolling their own children into Summerfield. ~ More...Barbara Clark, Preschool Teacher

...children are engaged in meaningful activities which tap into their imagination and curiosity...~ More... Tiffany Geminden, Primary teacher and Summerfield Academy parent

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