Book supports early educators and learners in best literacy practices

November 28, 2022

Associate Professor Tanya S. Wright is the lead author of a new professional book that aims to improve literacy learning for children from birth through age 5.  

The book, “Literacy Learning for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers: Key Practices for Educators,” is available now through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  

Tanya Wright headshot. She wears a pink shirt under a dark blazer. Her curly brown hair is shoulder length; she wears dark-rimmed glasses.
Tanya S. Wright

“In the last few decades, there has been an enormous amount of research about what literacy instruction looks like for very young children and how early childhood education supports that development,” said Wright. “In these settings, children are having fun and playing and communicating in the classroom and learning aspects of literacy—but it is educators who are setting up and planning those experiences in purposeful ways so children can have positive literacy learning experiences. Our book shares how educators can do that even more effectively in their classroom spaces.”  

The book—co-authored by Sonia Q. Cabell (Florida State University), Nell K. Duke (University of Michigan) and Mariana Souto-Manning (Erickson Institute of Chicago)—is intended for educators who work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers to learn about the latest research, resources and strategies. Wright says parents and other caregivers may also find inspiration in its pages.  

Using practices of knowing, sharing, designing, including, engaging, explaining, observing and responding, the authors expand upon five key elements of early literacy learning in the opening pages* of their book:  

  • CLEVER COMMUNICATORS – Both language and knowledge are critical for understanding texts and for learning about the world. In Chapter 1, early childhood educators learn to support young children in building knowledge and in developing language, including vocabulary, to talk about the concepts they learn and texts that are read.
  • PRINT NAVIGATORS – As children interact with different types of written text, they learn about how print is used to convey meaning. In Chapter 2, early childhood educators learn to support children’s print awareness and understandings about print through intentional teaching and by encouraging children to engage with literacy materials in meaningful ways.  
  • SOUND—LETTER LINKERS – The understanding that oral language can be broken into smaller sounds is a critical building block for literacy development. Understanding the relationship between these sounds and the letters we use to represent sounds in named languages (such as English or Spanish) is foundational for both reading and writing. [In Chapter 3], early childhood educators learn to use games and activities that encourage children to play with sounds in words as well as developmentally appropriate ways to teach young children to recognize and associate letters with common sounds.  
  • RESOURCEFUL WRITERS – In the early childhood years, children can begin to represent their ideas using pictures, symbols and eventually letters. In Chapter 4, early childhood educators learn to encourage and support children’s attempts to share their ideas through writing.  
  • TEXT COMPREHENDERS – Young children can understand, enjoy, learn from and apply ideas from texts and images. In Chapter 5, early childhood teachers learn to engage children in read alouds and other interactions with written text that facilitate text comprehension and higher-order discussion.  

Wright, a former kindergarten teacher, and fellow co-authors share how teachers can support these areas of development in ways that lead to purposeful immersion of literacy in the classroom.  

Each section of the book includes teaching tips on how to enact practices, questions to guide lesson planning, and games and strategies. 

“I hope, as individuals read this book, they understand that they are literacy educators. If you are talking to, reading with and playing with children, you are a literacy educator,” Wright said. “Literacy is in so many elements of our day-to-day lives. This book captures even more ways educators can purposefully support our youngest learners.” 

The bulleted list describing the five critical areas for young children’s literacy development is shared verbatim from the “Literacy Learning for Infants, Toddlers & Preschoolers” book. It is shared here with permission from the authors.