Best Early Literacy Practices

“priorities are out of balance and out of keeping with the nature of young children as literacy learners when kindergarten and readiness programs concentrate on letter sound matching, letter discrimination and letter names, and give only scant attention to activities that involve children with stories (Teale & Sulzby, 1986)"

Outdated and developmentally inappropriate practices are still prevalent in many classrooms. According to the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children:

Kindergarten Literacy Practices are Developmentally Inappropriate:

If the goal for the language program is for children to acquire readiness skills to prepare them for learning to read and write.

* Instead the goal should be for children to expand their ability to communicate orally and through reading and writing. A strong oral language base is always the foundation for learning to read. Most early readers cannot read words that are not in their speaking vocabularies. Knowledge of how language works and how words go together helps children decode unfamiliar words. Through listening to and participating in conversations, and by asking questions and hearing answers, children learn about language and about the world.

Too many primary programs erroneously focus children’s attention first and almost exclusively on form, introducing alphabet letters and practicing them for mastery before students are given opportunity to use these letters to express ideas. (Casbergue, 1998) There is much more to literacy development than the ability to name alphabet letters or to write them correctly. Children need a rich literacy environment that also includes vocabulary development, sense of story, and conventions of print, as well as a chance to explore the ways in which scribbles develop into letters and letters develop into words. They need to see a meaningful purpose for alphabet letters, which is why they should be taught in the context of names and words that are significant to the children.

There is substantial evidence to support a positive relationship between knowledge of letter names at the end of kindergarten and reading achievement in 1st grade. However, efforts to replicate this research by focusing exclusively on letter-name instruction found that letter-naming drills alone, without immersing children in other literary tasks, did not increase children’s success of becoming literate (Blanchard & Logan, 1988; Lesiak 1997; Samuels 1973 and Hiebert & Raphael, 1998).


Reading to children is the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in learning to read (Hoffman, Roser, & Battle, 1993)

Bad: If the curriculum is divided into separate subjects. And time is allotted for each.

* Instead the curriculum should be integrated so that children’s learning occurs primarily through projects and learning centers that teachers plan and that reflect children’s interests and suggestions.

Bad: If children are expected to work individually and silently on most learning activities

Bad: If students spend a great deal of time completing worksheets and other seat work.

Bad: If play centers are only available for children who finish their seat work early. Little attention is paid to integrating literacy activities into all learning centers.

* Instead all kids need to have a chance to learn actively and socially with others at play centers that are enriched with literacy artifacts (paper, pencils, and books)

Bad: If materials are limited primarily to books, workbooks, and pencils.

* Instead learning materials and activities should be concrete, real, and relevant to children’s lives. A variety of types of books should be provided, from picture books to poetry, informational books to magazines, store catalogs to brochures. A classroom library should have 8 to 10 books per child, with about 25 new books circulated each month, as well as old favorites that are maintained all year. Children who have access to books in the classroom read up to 50% more than students in classrooms without libraries. (Morrow 1997)

"Effective classroom teachers are the only absolutely essential element of an effective school".
(Allington & Cunningham)

From the book: Instruction in Kindergarten by Lori Jamison Rog - Copyright 2001 International Reading Association

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