Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Languages, Literatures and Cultures


College of Education

First Advisor

Lucy Spence


In this dissertation, I explored the lives of 10 children who were diagnosed with a language disorder. The children were enrolled in a therapeutic half-day speech-language preschool classroom for 3- and 4-year-old children within a public-school system in the rural Southeast. The research included a 15-week mini-ethnographic case study utilizing participant observation. Through a sociocultural Vygotskian approach used to meet their language and literacy needs holistically, I encouraged the children to use meaningful artifacts from which their play, talk, and stories developed. I collected both qualitative and quantitative data to assess how creative writing experiences including print referencing approaches impacted the children’s abilities in oral language, awareness of print, and development of literacy abilities.

The results revealed the children’s engagement in creative writing were influenced by toys, specifically superheroes—independent of ownership of the toy—as well as media representations of superheroes and cartoon characters. The toys offered the children the opportunity for movement and engagement, resulting in creative writing pieces, which children revisited during print referencing engagements. The results also showed that children’s natural use of interactive movements and self-generated songs throughout the creative writing sessions functioned as necessary sociocultural interactions the children utilized to aid them in the development of their ideas. These findings are contrary to the belief that a quiet environment offers the best atmosphere for creative writing opportunities and that toys should remain at home, as toys and other media representations were the most commonly represented themes in the children’s creative writing pieces. This study further revealed that when children realize they have autonomy when producing their own stories in a play-based context, they are more apt to attend to oral language that has been scribed for them, thus creating an interconnected awareness among their oral language abilities, awareness of print, and literacy abilities when their scribed words are emphasized.