Jocelyn Peckham (right) and classmate Sami McWhorter sit in the listening center they implemented at Huffer Memorial Children’s Center. Photo by Robbie Mehling, Ball State University.

MUNCIE, Indiana — Parker City resident and Ball State University junior Jocelyn Peckham helped Muncie children prepare for kindergarten by creating tailor-made areas for children to listen to books and songs.

In the Ball State immersive learning course, Peckham and other Teachers College students partnered with Muncie’s Huffer Memorial Children’s Center to implement listening centers in early childhood classrooms. In the centers, children learn language and literacy skills by listening to culturally relevant and age appropriate audio recordings.

“Muncie has minority populations that are growing, much like many other small cities in the United States,” said Peckham, an early childhood education major. “We need to be able to adapt our teaching methods and perspectives to be able to provide the best teaching to every single one of our students.”

Teams of students were assigned to Huffer classrooms with children ranging in age from infants to preschoolers. The teams assessed the needs of each classroom and, in collaboration with Huffer teachers and families, developed a plan for the physical layout, technology, and interactive materials needed in each center. Then, each team gathered relevant songs, rhymes, and stories meaningful to the children in each room, and recruited children’s family members and other community members to record the literature on iPads. Finally, the team constructed and implemented the centers in classrooms.

“The benefits of reading to children from the youngest of ages is well documented and uncontested,” said Emily Brown Hoffman, faculty mentor and assistant professor of early childhood, youth, and family studies. “Enacting engaging, well-conceived listening centers is one effective way to foster early literacy skills. However, often classroom literature fails to represent the actual communities in which children live. Research has consistently shown that children benefit from seeing and hearing their own linguistic practices within learning contexts.”

Peckham said the project has allowed her to interact with families, step out of her comfort zone, and learn from other lead teachers at the daycare.

“I hope that this project will bring attention to the importance of listening centers in daycares and provide inspiration for other daycares to include listening centers as well,” she said. “I hope that we will be able to reshape traditional curriculum to acknowledge, respond to, and celebrate Huffer children and families.”