This brief from Pew's Pre-K Now initiative highlighted findings from evaluations of state-funded Pre-K programs that continue to document gains in key measures of student learning, including early literacy, math and vocabulary; reduced need for special and remedial education; and significantly lower incidences of grade retention. This and other ongoing research once again demonstrates that high-quality early education is the natural first step in effective school reform.
Report on early literacy identifies key skills and approaches
The National Early Literacy Panel released a report identifying critical early literacy skills that predict later literacy outcomes, and the programs and interventions that are most effective at helping children developing them. (The report also includes a guide for practitioners to translate the research into action.) Based on a review of existing research, the panel found six early literacy skills that are critical for young children to develop during the first five years of their lives:
Knowledge of letters and their sounds;
Ability to detect and manipulate sounds and syllables within a word (phonological awareness);
Ability to name letters and digits;
Ability to name objects and colors;
Ability to write letters or one’s own name; and
Ability to remember spoken information for a short period of time.
The panel also found a second tier of skills that had more moderate association with later reading and writing ability, such as oral language and understanding the conventions of print and stories. Of the five types of interventions examined in the existing research, “code-focused interventions” – those designed to increase children’s proficiency in identifying and manipulating letters, sounds, and syllables – had the strongest relationship with the six critical early literacy skills. The other interventions, which included shared reading programs, parent/home programs and pre-k programs, had stronger relationships with the second-tier early literacy skills.
The National Institute for Early Education Research and other early literacy experts provided additional commentary on this report.
What works for early language instruction
The National Center for Family Literacy has produced a guide (PDF) to help pre-k teachers inform their classroom practice with findings from the National Early Literacy Panel (see Pre-K Picks, Issue 12). The publication is organized by three kinds of strategies critical for early literacy development: code-focused instruction, oral language and shared reading. For each area, the guide includes:
The report can also be applied to improve parent involvement, evaluate curricula and assessments, and plan professional-development activities.