Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Early Literacy

Early Literacy topic editors: Joan Danaher and Sue Goode

Most recent additions to this page:


In recent years, unprecedented attention has been focused on early literacy. Federal, state, and local initiatives are taking on the challenge of improving reading achievement with literacy programs involving families, local schools, and communities. Young children with disabilities and their families need to be part of these initiatives. Evidenced-based practices for teaching literacy skills to all young children can also inform literacy initiatives for young children with disabilities.

OSEP-Funded Early Literacy Resources

WWW: All Children Can Read

This Web site was designed by the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) to provide information and resources to state deaf-blind projects, teachers, family members and related service providers interested in beginning or enhancing literacy instruction for children who have combined vision and hearing loss and children with other complex learning challenges. It contains sections on Early Emergent Literacy and Emergent Literacy. NCDB is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). (posted January 26, 2012)

WWW: Center for Early Literacy Learning (CELL)

CELL is a research-to-practice technical assistance center funded by OSEP to promote the adoption and sustained use of evidence-based early literacy learning practices by early childhood intervention practitioners, parents, and other caregivers of young children, birth to five years of age, with identified disabilities, developmental delays, and those at-risk for poor outcomes. CELL products include practice-based research syntheses and summaries, evidence-based practice guides, and tool kits.

WWW: Reading Rockets - Launching Young Readers

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia project at WETA funded by OSEP to provide accurate, accessible information on how young children learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. The Reading Rockets Web site provides a wealth of reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn how to read and read better. A Chance to Read, the ninth episode in Launching Young Readers, focuses on the challenges that young children with disabilities face in learning to read.

U.S. Department of Education's Early Literacy Resources

WWW: What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) - Early Childhood Education

The WWC provides high-quality reviews of the effectiveness of replicable educational interventions. The Early Childhood Education reviews focus on curricula and practices designed for use with 3- to 5-year-olds to develop cognitive and language competencies associated with school readiness. A number of these relate to early literacy.

Position Statements

AAP Policy Statement - Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice

(June 2014) American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) - This AAP policy statement provides formal recommendations for pediatric providers to promote early literacy development for children beginning in infancy and continuing at least until the age of kindergarten.

PDF: Where we Stand on Learning to Read and Write

(2009) This "Where We Stand" document summarizes the joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the International Reading Association (IRA), which was issued in 1998 to provide guidance to teachers of young children in schools and in early childhood programs (including child care centers, preschools, and family child care homes) serving children from birth through age 8 years. See the related documents here.

WWW: Literacy Development in the Preschool Years

(2005) International Reading Association (IRA) - This position statement highlights the importance of preschool; the nature of language development and literacy-based instruction in quality preschools; what to aim for in preschool teachers' preparation and professional development; and recommendations for preschool educators, early childhood and elementary educators, public school boards, teacher educators, policymakers, and community leaders.

Other Programs and Resources

Books Build Connections Toolkit

(October 2014) American Academy of Pediatrics - This toolkit provides information and resources for pediatric health care professionals and families about the benefits of promoting early literacy and early learning for children. It also provides tips and publications to help encourage families to talk, read, and sing with their children. It is a follow-up to the AAP policy statement on promoting early literacy that was released in June 2014.

PDF: A Governor's Guide to Early Literacy: Getting all Students Reading by Third Grade

(October 2013) National Governors Association - This guide describes five policy actions governors and other state policymakers can take to ensure that all children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

WWW: Lead for Literacy

(2012-2013) Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at Harvard University - This initiative developed 16 memos for leaders dedicated to children's literacy development from birth to age 9. Topics range from assessment to professional development to family partnerships.

PDF: Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel, A Scientific Synthesis of Early Literacy Development and Implications for Intervention

(2009) National Institute for Literacy - This comprehensive synthesis of published literacy research on children from birth to age 5 ever provides an important basis for research-based recommendations to the early childhood community on promoting the foundational skills of life-long literacy. An PDF: Executive Summary is also available.

See also, Cornerstones: An Early Literacy Series - based on findings from the National Early Literacy Panel's report.

WWW: Washington Learning Systems

Washington Learning Systems provides evidence-based programs to promote early literacy, language, cognitive, and social development. Materials are available in multiple languages. Free parent-child materials in the preschool and birth-to-three age range and "ON-THE-GO" activities (for use during car rides, walks, bus rides, etc.) are available online. These materials complement the "Language is the Key" evidence-based early literacy video programs, which can be previewed online. (downloaded 11/11/11)


ZERO TO THREE offers a collection of resources for families and professionals related to early language and literacy. (downloaded 11/08/10)

WWW: Get Ready to Read!

(GRTR!) is a national program that provides research-based strategies to parents, early education professionals, and child care providers to help build the early literacy skills of preschool-aged children. GRTR is an initiative of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. (downloaded 11/11/11)

WWW: Division on Early Childhood

(DEC) publishes a Young Exceptional Children Monograph Series, which is available for purchase online. Scan down to No 7: Early Literacy, Horn and Jones (2005). (downloaded 11/11/11)

Links on this site are verified monthly. This page content was last updated on 10/20/2014 SG

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email:

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

  • FPG Child Development Institute
  • OSEP's TA&D Network:IDEAs that Work