NEWARK, Del., Jan. 8, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Too often, strategic planning in early literacy education is ineffective because programs are fragmented, inconsistent and underfunded, according to the International Literacy Association’s latest brief, What Effective Pre-K Literacy Instruction Looks Like.

ILA Logo

“Today, the field of early childhood education remains a fractured set of programs with little consistency, operating in widely differing contexts with varying levels of funding and resources,” says Susan Neuman, a professor of childhood and literacy education at New York University and the author of the brief.  

In 1998, the International Reading Association (now the International Literacy Association, ILA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children published a joint position statement, Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children, that identified urgent early literacy issues and their remedies. Fast forward 20 years, and many of these issues remain stubbornly in place; ILA’s 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy Report, also released today, identifies early literacy as the single most pressing topic in the current literacy education landscape.

Although we’ve long understood the crucial importance of early literacy as a major predictor of lifelong success, we’ve yet to implement a plan to remove these barriers to quality instruction. This leads us to ask, what does effective early literacy instruction look like, and how can all early childhood programs achieve that vision?

Neuman, former assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education of the United States Department of Education and cofounder of Every Child Ready to Read, draws on a lifetime of experience to answer those questions and identify best practices and policies in early childhood programs.

She promotes a “mixed medium” approach that includes in-depth learning through play; differentiated guidance; “a masterful orchestration of activity” that supports content learning and social–emotional development; and time, materials and resources that build technical reading and writing skills. Specifically, she recommends:

  • Shared reading experiences: When listening to stories, children begin to pay attention to print (e.g., print referencing) and exercise vocabulary knowledge and comprehension skills.
  • Discovery areas: Play allows young children to interpret their experiences, practice what they have learned about print and assume new roles and activities.
  • Drawing and writing activities: As children express themselves on paper (without the constraints of correct spelling and proper handwriting), they practice communicating through their own words and start to engage in the writing process.
  • Reading comprehension activities: Reading helps children to develop the “rich conceptual knowledge base,” verbal reasoning proficiency and toolkit of procedural skills (e.g., alphabet skills) needed to understand print messages.

Neuman also acknowledges the need for more centralized policies that ensure equitable outcomes:

  • Stronger professional learning: A comprehensive, consistent system of early childhood professional preparation and ongoing professional development is needed to ensure that educators receive a “content-rich” education and research-based strategies.
  • Smaller class sizes: Small class size enable teachers to better accommodate children’s diverse strengths and needs. For 4- and 5-year-olds, adult–child ratios should be no more than 1 adult for 8–10 children, with a maximum group size of 20.
  • Quality reading materials: Libraries should be stocked (with a minimum of five books per child) with high-quality children’s books, computer software and multimedia resources at various levels of difficulty and reflecting various cultural and family backgrounds.
  • Individualized instruction: Educators should be equipped with resources to provide more individualized instruction, focused time, tutoring by trained and qualified tutors or other individualized intervention strategies that are used to accelerate learning.

Children come to school with vastly different experiences and abilities. As such, no single teaching method is likely to be the most effective for all children. Effective pre-K literacy instruction, notes Neuman, provides all students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to continue down a path of literacy achievement.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of the early childhood years in children’s overall development and literacy learning,” says Neuman. “What we do in these early years will make a difference in their reading patterns, interests and lifelong desire to learn.”

About the International Literacy Association
The International Literacy Association (ILA) is a global advocacy and membership organization dedicated to advancing literacy for all through its network of more than 300,000 literacy educators, researchers and experts across 78 countries. With over 60 years of experience, ILA has set the standard for how literacy is defined, taught and evaluated. ILA collaborates with partners across the world to develop, gather and disseminate high-quality resources, best practices and cutting-edge research to empower educators, inspire students and inform policymakers. ILA publishes The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and Reading Research Quarterly, which are peer reviewed and edited by leaders in the field. For more information, visit

Alina O’Donnell


Cision View original content with multimedia:

SOURCE International Literacy Association