Classroom design.

Promoting Literacy with Classroom Design

An environment designed to promote reading can improve academic performance and make learning about language fun.

It’s no wonder why educators and parents monitor children’s reading, writing and verbal aptitudes so closely: literacy development can predict a lifetime of academic success or failure. Engaging children with story time or flashcards are well-known ways to foster the development of these fundamental skills, but did you know that classroom design can also have a big impact?

A recent study found that the overall aesthetic of a learning space, including furniture style and layout, natural light and color, affects students’ literacy achievement. Additionally, a well-designed collection of literature in the classroom can make a big impact on literacy development.


Design the room for reading

The overall aesthetic of the classroom should be stimulating without overwhelming the senses. Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Break out the label maker. Use color-coded, labeled bins to organize supplies.
  • Add interest with unique furniture. Colorful, ergonomic tables and chairs add visual interest and an element of cool to your space.
  • Designate a reading zone. Create comfy reading nooks using an area rug and some pillows to encourage students to get cozy with a book.
  • Utilize natural light. If you’re lucky enough to get plenty of natural light, take advantage of it! Turn off the harsh overheads, if possible.
  • Add low-maintenance plants to your space. A little greenery is visually pleasing and improves indoor air quality.


Offer unexpected things to read

Sure, textbooks are packed with useful information, but they do not always spark a joy for reading in children. Mem Fox, a highly regarded children’s book author from Australia, is passionate about railing against illiteracy and uses her beautifully written stories to connect with children on an emotional level. She said, “My ideas come from real life which is why I think my books resonate with readers: they’re grounded in an emotional reality from my own experience.” Consider adding some of her titles to your classroom’s bookshelf.

Incorporating a variety of literature into your classroom in an organized, accessible fashion is important. It encourages students to take initiative and choose reading materials on topics that interest them. For example:

  • Books (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Calendars
  • Poems
  • Schedules
  • Dictionaries
  • Menus
  • Recipes
  • Signs
  • Student work
  • Alphabet displays
  • Word games (Pictionary, Scrabble, BINGO, Boggle, etc.)


Creating a literacy-rich environment within your classroom walls doesn’t require a major overhaul. Incorporating just a few of these design elements can make a big difference. Of course, improving literacy skills is the primary goal here, but when students develop an enjoyment of reading and writing as a result of effective classroom design, it’s icing on the cake.

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