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30 Amazing Early Learning Statistics From 0 to 100!

In early learning, there are so many statistics that often get used and recycled to emphasize certain points. 

It’s a good exercise to pause, step back and reflect on the messages conveyed by each statistic. This allows you to identify trends and  general early learning patterns.

Early learning, also known as early childhood education, refers to the education a child receives from birth to age 8. Age 8 roughly corresponds to the grade 3 in most school systems. 


Early Learning Statistics and Commentary

These  early learning statistics, starting from zero, all the way to a hundred, are divided into 10 sections. As statistics can be spun in many different ways, Sprig Learning provides commentary on each number.


0 and Up

Early learning begins at birth! There are developmental milestones listed as early as 2 months. Early Head Start Programs serve infants and toddlers under the age of 3. It shows why there is a need for systematic education for that age group. 


This additional $1 billion brings the total Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages 0-3) funding to above $10 billion for 2021. 


The pandemic affected all facets of life, including early childhood education. In the crucial early years of development, the 2 missed months of learning can have a compounded effect later on, if not addressed. 


  • Only 10 % of 3-5 year olds remained in the same program on the same pre-pandemic schedule during the pandemic.

Only 1 out of 10 schoolchildren had any sense of continuity during the course of COVID-19. Again, the threat of discontinuity and inconsistency of education in the early years is something that should be examined more closely.


  • Children’s academic success at ages 9 and 10 are determined by the amount of conversation they heard from birth to age 3

There are multiple variations of this one statistic, but it demonstrates the necessity of parental involvement in the early years to instill oral communication in their children. Development of oral language is an important indicator of success in the later years. 


The 10s

This is extremely important to take into account, not because of the lack of importance of special education (which is very much needed), but the costs of special education placements and the fact that such placements are preventable via early enrollment.


  • Students from minority communities attended school districts that received nearly 13% less state and local funding compared to those school districts that had fewer students of colour. 

Education inequity cannot be swept under the rug. With the expansion of high-quality and affordable early learning programs, there is hope that such inequity will dissipate over time. Proper early childhood assistance is an amazing equalizer in terms of school readiness.


Supporting the last point, this is again a reminder that attending and progressing from preschool to Grade 3 is linked to academic success later on. Thus, it’s very important to extend whatever support that is necessary during this time period. 


Before one can even graduate highschool, it is important that they progress through each grade. This further establishes the link between enrolling early into a school system and successful graduation years later. 


The benefits of preschool attendance do not stop at academic success. When considering everything the child eventually contributes to the economy and the society, the ROI is thoroughly justified.


The 20s

Education resources, both inside and outside the classroom, are so important to early childhood development. Books are one of the best sources for learning, which can be read to kids, and which kids can learn to read themselves. 


  • Pre-k enrollment during the pandemic in the US declined by 22%.

Given everything that is discussed thus far on the importance of pre-k, it is discouraging to see that a major catastrophe such as a pandemic or natural disaster can discourage enrollment in pre-k. Even if remote learning can be arranged at such times, situational stress and safety concerns seem to have a discouraging effect on enrollment.


The 30s

 There are other forms of learning, besides just cognitive, which have a tremendous impact on both academic and non-academic success for a child. 


In the very famous study conducted by Hart and Risely, where children from wealthier families were exposed to more words in an hour compared to children from less wealthier families, the difference added up to a gap by the time both groups turned 4. 

Admittedly, the statistic is worded to provide maximum shock, but the point still stands. Expanding vocabulary in the early years is paramount. 


After all aforementioned benefits of preschool, the fact remains that a sizable chunk of children are not enrolled in preschool.  The reasons for this are wide-ranging. Understanding them would address the causes of education inequity. 


The 40s

There are positive and negative externalities of early childhood education. Most of the positives have been mentioned such as graduating high school and becoming a productive member of society. 

It also helps to look at what can be avoided, such as crime. This happens when young students are beneficiaries of an education program that goes beyond just academics and teaches them values.


No early learning program is successful without effective teachers. When teachers have the right resources and infrastructure, they are able to do their work well and make a huge difference in early learning. 


Almost half of the 3 year old children in the US were not enrolled in preschool in 2020. This is in contrast 34% of 4 year olds who were not enrolled in preschool. It makes sense that the older children get, the greater the likelihood they will be admitted to school. 

But on the heels of everything mentioned in this article about the importance of starting early, there is a lot more work to be done in providing access to high-quality education to 3 year olds.


The 50s

Pound for pound, books are one of the best resources for learning. Not worksheets, or tablets, but traditional paper books. They are designed to fast-track learning and provide a type of learning experience that is more permanent. It’s why here at Spig Learning, levelled readers and storybooks are such an essential part of our early learning programs.


The 60s

Remote learning may be great as a contingency plan, but it is not the preferred method for teaching. Transitioning out of the pandemic, both students and teachers would favour in-person classrooms for high-quality learning. 


This speaks to the intergenerational nature of the inequity in education. It’s been found that when two successive generations of people are educated by the Head Start Program, the latter generation fares better because of improved parenting from previous Head Start attendees.


The 70s

  • 70% of elementary school principals say that they could not meet their students’ mental health needs with the staff they had.

This is why educating the whole child is so important, rather than focusing on academics only. Holistic learning is a great approach that focuses on the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual side of growth which can mitigate any emergent conditions later on.


  • In NYC, the lowest annual fee for a private school is $1280, while the highest is $72,725.

Based on all these statistics, it’s clear that there is a need for preschool. Sprig Learning has written on the qualities that make a high-quality preschool program. This statistic however looks at the private sector, and it demonstrates just how much value can be added on to a program in terms of quality.


Inequity emerges again as a major issue, as kids from families who make less income are less prepared for kindergarten. Assistance is required. There is a window of opportunity to address this discrepancy in the early years of learning.


Beyond education, providing a high-quality learning environment helps families as well who can trust that their children are being well looked after. It strengthens families by allowing them to better manage their time, and giving them confidence knowing they are being supported by teachers and the greater community. Learn how community plays a key role in holistic learning


The 80s

Previously, we saw that children from higher income families are better prepared when entering school. This statistic is an extension of that, which shows exactly how those who enter kindergarten “ready to learn”, can then benefit from the schooling that is provided.


  • By age 3, approximately 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. 

This is a throwback to the beginning of the article that zoomed in on early development. Indeed, most of the brain develops by age 3, the age when most kids enroll into preschool. Learning truly begins in the home. It is best when early learning programs include a learn-at-home component through which parents are supported to help their child’s learning at home.  


The 90s

  • There is a 90% likelihood that, in the absence of additional instructional support,  a poor reader in 1st grade will remain a poor reader.

This is a chilling statistic that shows how important preschool and kindergarten are for taking corrective measures to optimize the learning capacity of a child. It’s good to have multiple formative assessments during that period of learning, to identify all learning opportunities before it’s too late.


A teachers’ role in the early learning process simply cannot be understated. There is curriculum, content and methods of assessment, but it’s the teacher who varies instruction in all these areas to best educate a young student according to their unique abilities. 


  • Over 100 activities were conducted across Canada by Indigenous organizations and the government of Canada to inform a better understanding of existing Indigenous early learning and child care systems.

While most of the earlier statistics mention the need for high-quality early learning programs, it is not possible to achieve quality with the considerations of all stakeholders.

When designing early learning programs, respecting the various diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of communities is extremely important. 


Main Takeaways

That brings the article to a close. Hard hitting early learning numbers, from zero to hundred. Going through all of the statistics offers a lot of takeaways. In summary:


  • There is so much research that points to the benefits of prioritizing high-quality education in the earlier years.  Starting early is crucial when it comes to educating young learners. It sets the foundation and tone for the rest of their student journey.


  • Inequity is linked to accessibility. Even if the benefits of early learning are thoroughly understood, expanding such programs to all remains a challenge. Certain high-quality aspects of the program might have to be scaled quickly. Sprig Learning can help with that. 

15 Incredible Stories of Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Sprig Learning writes the Root to Fruit newsletter twice a month, covering all the latest news from early learning pertaining to projects, practices, announcements and educational equity. 

The 30th edition was sent out to readers yesterday. The last edition of the year will go out to subscribers on December 21. Subscribe now to be in the loop on all things early learning. 

In every Root to Fruit, educational equity has a separate section devoted to it, as so much of what Sprig is trying to do centers around raising equity in education. 

The educational equity section features stories on the gaps between different groups of students due to their own unique circumstances. It highlights stories that speak of this gap, and the efforts that are conceived and actions that are taken to reduce this gap. 

In particular, Sprig Learning centers its work around the persistent gaps for Indigenous learners. It is not only additional resources that are often needed to provide high-quality early learning, but support for the autonomy for Indigenous communities to preserve local customs, languages and cultures. 

This article presents 15 stories of revitalizing Indigenous education first featured on Root to Fruit, since the beginning of the last school year. 


Stories of Indigenous Education Revitalization

Stories of Indigenous Education Revitalization

1. The Anishinabek Nation: Introduction of Teaching Tools for Topics Such as Treaty Education

Nov. 1-7 was Treaties Recognition Week in Canada. School boards across the country took this opportunity to continue their education on Indigenous subject matters, with relevant sessions about what a Treaty is and what reconciliation looks like. The Anishinabek Nation unveiled some new online teaching tools. The recommendation is that lessons about Treaties should begin in elementary school. Sprig has helped support the development of such lesson plans. 


2. Vancouver Island First Nation: Ability to Certify Own Teachers

Vancouver Island First Nation has accepted the education jurisdiction agreement and law-making protocol with the Government of Canada. This allows Cowichan Tribes to certify its own teachers, determine graduation certification and create its own curriculum. Marlene Tommy, a kindergarten and grade one teacher, says that students can “expect a more robust cultural education.” 


3. Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation: Expansion of Space to Promote Holistic Approach to Learning

The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation are expanding Lloyd S. King elementary school. New classrooms will be added and local early learning centres will be brought under the same facility to establish the First Nation holistic approach to lifelong learning. The school principal and Chief say that this will provide a healthy and safe learning environment and promote the further development of a culturally-relevant curriculum.


4.The Rapid City Area Schools: Introduce of Immersion Programs to Rapidly Learn an Indigenous Language

Lakota Immersion pilot program is finding great success in Rapid City in South Dakota, a year after its launch.The Rapid City Area Schools are getting familiar with the program and are noticing instances of children learning much more quickly, whether it be in math, reading or the Lakota culture. Teachers say they learned a lot about language acquisition in kindergarten and the goal is for the program to expand by one grade level every year. Next year’s kindergarten program is at capacity at 20 students. 


5. Leo Ussak School: Creating the Right Learning Environment

Appolina Makkigak is one of the three recipients of the 2022 Inuit Language Award. A Grade 1 Inuktitut teacher at Leo Ussak School in Rankin Inlet, Appolina has been teaching for the past 5 years, and has innovated every year to keep the learning materials relevant. She has an Inuktitut word wall and speaks to her students about Inuit traditions. 


6. Great Falls Public Schools: Incorporating Hands-on Activities To Preserve Culture

Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) in Montana are looking to teach students about Indigenous culture through innovative programs. Using donation funds from the non-profit organization Sisters United, GFPS aims to offer cultural opportunities such as planting sweetgrass, going bison hunting, and hearing stories from elders. GFPS Director of Indigenous Education Dugan Coburn says that this will be a great way to represent the 51 different tribes in the Great Falls community. 


7. Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation: Building Schools in Close Proximity to Relevant Cultural Centres

A new elementary school was approved in Sagamok that will accommodate 201 students and be equipped with a gym, cafeteria, sciency room and library. The school site is located next to an Elder’s Lodge, so there will be more exposure to the Ojibwe language. 

Chief Alan Ozawanimiki says that the community’s future depends on “promoting an environment conducive to learning in a way that reflects both modern curriculum and Anishnawbe Aadziwin”. This is great news for the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation in Ontario, as there will be more opportunities to strengthen relationships and build language.


8. The Mohegan Tribe: Creating a Stockpile of Resources to Teach Lesson Plans in New Curriculums

The Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut is set to launch the Educators Project, which is an Indigenous curriculum produced by the Mohegan Council of Elders and the tribe’s Cultural & Community Programs and Communications departments. Connecticut has mandated that starting with the 2023-2024 school year, each local and regional school board should focus on including Indigenous studies in the curriculum. Teacher resources, video assets and student tools are being developed to teach the different lesson plans in the curriculum. 


9. The Kainai Board of Education: Providing Opportunities for Teacher Collaboration

The Kainai Board of Education is building a new elementary school. Students will be learning the Alberta curriculum as well as the Blackfoot language and Indigenous history and culture. The new Aahsaopi Elementary School will be completed in January 2024. KBE Superintendent Cam Shade, is excited at the prospect of multiple grade levels being housed together and teachers collaborating to provide the best educational experience to students.


10. Kehkimin: Creating a School Dedicated to Language Immersion

The Kehkimin Wolastoqey language immersion school is opening this fall at Killarney Park in Fredericton, New-Brunswick. The city has granted a one year lease to the school so it has access to the surrounding grounds for a land-based education. Ron Tremblay, Wolastoq Grand Council Chief, has worked in language education for 36 years. He has collaborated with Lisa Perley-Dutcher, Chair of the Board of Directors of the new school, to develop the curriculum. 


11. Lil’wat Nation, Cowichan Tribes, ʔaq’am, and Seabird Island Band: Acquiring Greater Autonomy for Curriculum Decision-making

The Canadian federal government and First Nations Education Steering Committee announced that the Lil’wat Nation, Cowichan Tribes, ʔaq’am, and Seabird Island Band were granted total autonomy over over its Kindergarten to Grade 12 education systems. This new autonomy means that the nations have complete law-making authority on the curriculum and certification of teachers


12. Saddle Lake Cree Nation: Including Land-based Learning Opportunities

The new Saddle Lake Cree Nation elementary school has an update. The construction project which began in March of this year, is expected to be completed in July 2023. Debra Cardinal, superintendent of the school, says “The design of the new school incorporates a connection to the Cree way of life and includes land-based learning opportunities”. The school will be developing its own curriculum with a strong focus on the Cree language and history. 


13. Red Deer Public School District: Using Books from Indigenous Authors

Red Deer Public School District in Alberta acknowledged Truth and Reconciliation Day by organizing various hands-on activities for their students, and incorporating themes into their lessons that taught about the impact of the residential schools system on Indigenous youth. For Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, age appropriate texts from Indigenous authors were used to teach the value of first teachings from family members. 


14. Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools: Creating Bilingual Programming for the Early Grades

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) works with the Saskatoon Tribal Council to provide Cree- and Michif-language options in schools. St. Michael Community School currently offers bilingual programming for Kindergarten and Grade 1. It plans to extend the program to Grade 2 next year. Cornelia Laliberte oversees GSCS’s Indigenous programming and hopes to add more resources for the Michif language, which is not as common as Cree.


15. The Elsie Fabian School: Employing Indigenous Educators and Staff

The Elsie Fabian School opened its doors in Fort McKay, Alberta, to approximately 140 students from the Fort McKay First and Métis Nations. The K-9 school will teach a modified version of the Alberta curriculum that includes the revitalization of Cree and Dene languages, and offer a land-based education. 70% of the school faculty is Indigenous, and includes positions such as library technician and literacy specialist. 


Promoting and Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Promoting and Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Sprig will continue to feature such stories of Indigenous Education that demonstrate how education equity is being addressed in different Indigenous communities across North America. 

Understanding what other Nations, Tribes, and School Districts are doing allows us to draw inspiration and develop new projects to further the revitalization of Indigenous languages. Sprig is involved in many  such projects, working collaboratively with Indigenous educators, leaders and Elders. If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch.

46 Stories of Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Schools

Sprig covers all the latest Pre-K to 3 announcements, projects, practices and stories in its newsletter, Root to Fruit, twice a month. If you are interested in the latest early learning news and updates, definitely join as a reader, so you never miss an edition.

A common feature of the newsletter is covering stories which discuss schools, school districts and school boards continually innovating to raise early literacy achievement for their youngest learners. 

This information is curated fresh twice a month, vetted for relevance in the early education sector, and presented to Root to Fruit readers.

If you are a reader, you are accustomed to these stories. 

To celebrate the upcoming 30th edition of Root to Fruit on Dec 7th (subscribe today if you want to receive the edition on that day), Sprig has accumulated 46 stories from prior editions to demonstrate what can be done to improve early literacy achievement. 

For the benefit of those not subscribed yet, this article is a compilation of all stories on improving early literacy achievement in schools and preschools. It features reading instruction strategies, tactics and action plans that have been considered or instituted by schools and early learning centers.

It is important to note that all of these stories have come from schools or early learning centers, because stories from other stakeholders are also covered in Root to Fruit, which are pertinent to the improvement of early literacy. 

These include teachers from unnamed schools, state legislature, federal and state programs, stage offices, foundations, think tanks, researchers, academic institutions, assessment centers, teacher’s associations, journalists, etc.

But all of the news items in this article have come from identified schools/school boards/school districts and preschools/early learning centers.

The stories are divided into improving early literacy achievement in early learning centers/preschools (Stories 1 to 7) and schools/school districts/ school boards (stories 8 to 46). Where appropriate, certain stories have been lumped together where the recommendation or action taken is the same.

If you want to implement some of the solutions suggested in these stories, please do have a look at Sprig’s homepage, where you can find reading, oral language, math and Indigenous language solutions, depending on your needs. 


Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Early Learning Centers/Preschools (Stories 1 to 7)

Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Early Learning Centers, Preschools


1.The Saint Joseph Early Learning Center: Elongating Early Learning Instruction Time and Expanding Early Learning Options

The Saint Joseph Early Learning Center out of Missouri, USA is a consolidated preschool that has been well-received by the community. Children from multiple preschools were transferred into a single location, where students attend for a half day (either morning or afternoon). 

The school district is exploring a longer school day to take in more students who are turning 3 throughout the year. Location expansion is another option for the future, but currently this is the solution devised to handle the need for additional classrooms.


2. Brooklyn Kindergarten Society: Culturally Responsive High Quality Offerings

With preschool and kindergarten kids back at school, Melisha Jackman, executive director at early-childhood education provider Brooklyn Kindergarten Society talks about three strategic priorities she’s embracing for this school year: 1) be more “culturally responsive to the needs of their children”, 2) focus on “high quality offerings”, and 3) ensure the “ infusion of inquiry, learning and creativity” from teachers to students. 


3. Bright Horizons Program: Proactively Seeking Parental Involvement

Cheretta Triplett-Smith, Director of the Bright Horizons program in Chicago says that parents have a lot more information now when comparing high-quality early education programs. She makes it clear that Bright Horizon takes a whole child approach, which focuses on school readiness by working on cognitive and language skills to communicate, but also the social and emotional skills to work with others. She asks parents to inquire about “teacher training and age-appropriate teaching methods” before enrolling their child to a preschool. 


4. UC San Diego’s Early Childhood Education Center: Foster Play-based and Inquiry-Based Learning


Matthew Proctor is the new director at UC San Diego’s Early Childhood Education Center, which provides child care and education services to all faculty members, staff and students. He talks about how the center curriculum focuses on child discovery where young students initiate learning. The objective is to embed math, language and other subjects naturally into what the children are already interested in playing. His goal is to further expand the program to accommodate more students. 


5. Little Nooks Preschool: House Preschool on Main School Site

Little Nooks Preschool will open in Kalama, Washington. The program will be fully inclusive and housed inside the local elementary school so kids are used to the building when transitioning to kindergarten. Superintendent Eric Nerison states the need for “early childhood development and kindergarten readiness” in Southwest Washington.


6. Rainbow Dreams: Adopt A Specialized Curriculum for Early Childhood Education

Rainbow Dreams in Clark County Nevada is an early learning center that houses only Pre-K and kindergarten classes. The school follows a full day model for both grades. The curriculum is hands-on, play-based, and with a purpose. It promotes age-appropriate rigorous learning. Rainbow Dreams officials believe in a structured education for young children, choosing to specialize in early childhood education. The enrollment was higher than anticipated this year, signaling an unmet need in the market.


7. The DeKalb County School District: Create New Centers in Existing Schools

The DeKalb County School District in Georgia is planning to add six new early learning centers in its existing schools between 2026 and 2030. Currently there are two such centres, which are not nearly enough to cope with the demand for early childhood education in the state’s third largest school district. The project will cost $15 million in total, and it is part of the 2022-2023 tentative budget that will be finalized in June.


Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Schools/School Districts/School Boards (Stories 8-46)

Improving Early Literacy Achievement in Schools, School Districts. School Boards


8. Winnipeg School Division: Set up an Office Dedicated to Educational Equity

Winnipeg School Division’s board of trustees has approved a motion to establish an education equity office by August 2022. It’s one among many examples of primary, secondary and postsecondary institutions taking such an initiative. Along with academic success and personalized learning, education equity also features as a prominent goal for many school districts in North America. It is a critical component of any school’s strategic vision. This is not surprising, given that Generation Z is the most diverse generation to date in North America. 


9. Kinoomaadziwin Education Body: Ensure Smooth Transitions Between Grade Configurations

Ontario and the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body have agreed to a three year $7.9 million agreement to support Anishinabek students in the province. The Master Education agreement includes improving access to culturally relevant resources and supports, supporting transitions between First Nation Schools and provincially funded schools (92% of Anishinabek students attend provincially funded schools), and sharing more data between the two education systems. 


10. Fort Worth School District: Ensure Learning Outside of the Classroom

Preschool and kindergarten students in the Fort Worth School District in Texas visit the museum every other week to learn about science and history. It is part of the Legacy Program, which brings diverse opportunities to students who need them. 


Implement Full-day Kindergarten

11. Boise School District

Boise School District in Idaho has approved free full-day kindergarten in all of its 32 elementary schools. Previously, full-day kindergarten was offered at 20 elementary schools. Superintendent Colby Dennis says that full-day kindergarten improves students’ literacy, math and social skills. It also makes enough time for both instruction and intervention. Governor Brad Little has proposed to devote $47 million for literacy programs in Idaho.


12. The Grande Prairie Public School Division (GPPSD)

The Grande Prairie Public School Division (GPPSD) in Alberta, expanded its pilot full-time kindergarten program from 6 to 13 of its 15 elementary schools in the district. Superintendent James Robinson says that the KinderPAL program has received glowing reviews. The program consists of curricular-focused lessons, but also structured playtime with early learning certified instructors.


13. Louis Riel School Division

Louis Riel School Division is planning to expand full-day kindergarten in south-east Winnipeg in 5 new buildings. It will also spend nearly $1 million dollars on diversity and inclusion initiatives including hiring more Indigenous educators and supporting ongoing reviews of curricula. Also included in the new proposed budget is a reduction of K-3 average class sizes. Smaller classes are a mark of high-quality education.


14. The Twin Falls School District

The Twin Falls School District in Idaho will offer full-day, tuition-free kindergarten at each of its nine elementary schools, beginning in the fall of 2022. Previously, five of its elementary schools had the program. Such an expansion was made possible by the increased state funding, as the state’s annual literacy budget increased from $26.1 million to $72.7 million. Director of Elementary Program, Jennine Peterson, says that less catching up is needed in Grade 1 if more time is allotted in kindergarten to build foundational skills. 


Use Learning Recovery Funds Appropriately

15. Pittsburgh Public Schools

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ superintendent, Wayne Walters says that “unfinished learning is multi-faceted and it’s not just instructionally-based.” Student achievement data last fall showed that Pittsburgh students in grades 2-7 had only three-quarters of the academic growth in math as they would in a typical year, and two-thirds in math.There is a focus on providing students with grade level work, but also providing remediation to those lacking skills to do this work. Certain schools in the school district had K-2 literacy specialists prior to the pandemic. Other school districts are looking to spend a portion of their ESSER money into providing K-3 literacy support.


16. The West Branch Local School District

The West Branch Local School District in Beloit, Ohio,  used its ESSER funds to introduce intervention initiatives for students who are not meeting grade-level standards. From kindergarten through Grade 5, the interventions use phonics programs which provide a consistent approach for building literacy skills. The small group sessions focus on comprehension, self-correction and fluency. Approximately 35% of grade 3 to grade 5 students have been moved out of this program due to demonstrated improvement.


17. The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB): Rely on More than One Source of Assessments to Track Progress

The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) in Guelph, ON, is requesting a deferral of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing in Grade 3 and Grade 6 by a year. Board trustee Mike Foley believes that the results would be skewed right now due to the increased anxiety and stress the students are facing. UGDSB’s Director of Education, Peter Sovran assures that besides the EQAO assessments data, the district also has report card data and teacher assessments data to understand student progress.


18. Somerset School District: Reconfiguring Grades to Foster a Bridge Between Pre-K and Early Elementary

The school district at Somerset, Massachusetts, is considering a reconfiguration of their early grades. Some potential options include pre-K to Grade 2, and Grade 3 to Grade 5. Neighboring school district at Westport had previously maintained a similar configuration, but recently changed again to a pre-K to kindergarten and Grade 1 to 4, configuration. Housing all grade levels in the same building helps to share knowledge and resources among teachers. Westport Superintendent, Thomas Aubin, is evaluating new configuration options again to increase literacy scores of students. 


Personalize Learning via One-on-one Tutoring

19. Toronto District School Board

Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) trustees discuss the need for greater personalization to better serve students. It includes figuring out who needs access to laptops, one-on-one tutoring, interviews with counselors, etc. TDSB is facing a funding shortfall of $60 million. The earlier cutbacks of reading coaches, speech pathologists, and social workers have not fared well at this time, when students need more help than ever.


20. Alexandria City Public Schools

April is school library month in the US, and Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPCS) in Virginia, provides its first grade students with one-on-one reading support twice a week to help strengthen their literacy skills. ACPCS libraries allow students to explore different types of literature, and use technology to get access to different sources of information. Superintendent Gregory Hutchins encourages all families to help their children read at home each day or participate in a literacy program.


21. Springfield Public Schools: Appoint Strategic Positions for Elementary Schools

Springfield Public Schools in Missouri, have announced a slew of leadership changes for the upcoming school year. Superintendent Grenitha Lathan says that “To achieve growth, we must objectively assess our strengths and identify areas for potential improvement”. One high-priority area of focus is Springfield’s elementary schools, where oversight will be shared amongst three leaders. There are new hires in the chief strategy and innovation officer and chief academic officer positions as well.


22. The Foothills School Division: Hire More Personnel to Provide Consistent Interventions

The Foothills School Division in Alberta is on a hiring spree to help students in grade 2 and 3 with their learning recovery.  Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services, Caroline Roberts says that they are making use of a grant that was focused on literacy and numeracy in the early years.Teachers and educational assistants have been hired to deliver consistent intervention services. These services will soon be extended to grade 1 as well. In total $673,000 will be spent.


Provide Ample Professional Learning Opportunities

23. Vernon School District

Vernon School District in British Columbia is supporting schools and teachers by providing key resources and professional learning opportunities in literacy research approaches. This year has seen a particular focus placed on the primary years of learning. The district is working with early language and literacy consultant Dr. Donna Kozak, on “systemic literacy practices” and the possibility of “becoming more responsive” to young students in kindergarten and grade 1.


24. The Lethbridge School Division

Beginning in September 2022, Alberta students will learn a new curriculum for K-3 English Language Arts and Literature and K-3 Math. But, there is a cloud of uncertainty over its implementation as the curriculum is not available yet. In a survey, 86% of Alberta Teachers’ Association members disagreed that they had the resources or supports needed to successfully implement the draft curriculum. The Lethbridge School Division Superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Gilmore, says that necessary structures will be put in place to prepare teachers and students before fall.


25. Union County School District: Focus on High Dosage Tutoring

Union County School District in North Carolina had adopted intensive tutoring before it became standard practice for remediating learning for returning students. It invested in technology related professional development which focused on the personalization of instruction and increasing the student’s role in choosing class activities. Superintendent Andrew Houlihan noted that the district’s high-poverty, lowest-performing schools were struggling with math, and implemented small group instruction to remedy it. Having proof of its effectiveness, it was similarly rolled out for students in all schools who had suffered from the learning interruption. 


Facilitate Teacher Collaboration

26. Little Rock School District

The Little Rock School District in Arkansas will close two of its 26 elementary school campuses in the 2022-23 school year. The school board voted to do this in order to generate savings to account for salary increases. Another reason was to maximize student’s academic benefits from larger schools which have multiple teachers per grade level and who collaborate on instruction. Collaborative planning is one of the best practices of effective teaching.


27. Holyoke Public Schools

At least half of the students, at all grade levels, at Holyoke Public Schools in Massachusetts are struggling with reading. The gap in learning is more pronounced in the lower grades, with 60% of Grade 2 students needing urgent intervention. Valerie Annear, the district’s chief instructional officer, said that the dip in literacy in Grade 2 is a national phenomenon. Though disappointed with the data, she urged for more well-rounded educational experience and giving teacher’s more collaboration time.


28. Ripple Rock Elementary: Employ Literacy Intervention Specialists to Focus on Foundational Skill sets

Ripple Rock Elementary in BC is providing individualized tutoring services to kindergarten and Grade 1 students to help with literacy. The program uses literacy intervention specialists who work on phonics, sight word acquisition, fluency, and comprehension with the students in face-to-face, one-on-one tutoring. This early literacy program is part of the efforts to improve literacy, which is one of the goals of the district’s strategic plan. Students are thus far very engaged, and an increase in grade-level reading proficiency is expected.


Focus on Biliteracy

29. The Lower Kuskokwim School District

The Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska visited the Grand Prairie Independent School District in Texas to discuss dual language best practices in the early grades. The former is working to preserve the Indigenous language of Yup’ik. The latter’s dual-language program focuses on promoting language skills, and also biliteracy and biculturalism. The program focuses not only on language, but also on culture and identity. By accessing the right content, students are fully immersed in their Indigenous language before proceeding with English.


30. Appoquinimink School District

Students are faring well in the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs in Delaware, which was first introduced 10 years ago. DLI programs offering either Spanish or Mandarin are in 12 of the 15 school districts that operate elementary schools in Delaware. Students usually opt in the program in Kindergarten or Grade 1. The data shows that immersion students are doing as well or better than their counterparts in state assessments, while becoming proficient in two languages.


31. Graciela Garcia Elementary

Graciela Garcia Elementary, in Pharr, Texas, is a dual-language school where 77% of the students are emergent bilinguals. Maureen Ibarra, who teaches fluency and reading comprehension to students from grade 2 to grade 5 says that during the pandemic, many kids lost access to an adult who could help them with their assignments in their second language. There was a gap in learning for returning students. More holistic approaches for English learners are being considered.


Create New Schools and Gradually Add Grade Levels

32. The Loyola School

The Loyola School will be awarded Loyola University Maryland’s 2022 Milch Community Partnership Award for its service to families in Baltimore, Maryland. The school consists of an early learning center and a new elementary school, which plans to add a new grade level each year until 2025. The school seeks to improve socioeconomic disparities that exist in the city, through commitment to early childhood education and holistic development of children.


33. The Festus R-6 School District

The Festus R-6 School District in Missouri will have its own early learning program beginning in August 2023. Property has been bought for the site and the administrators have been selected who will head this project. The decision was made after seeing success in a neighboring school district’s program, the  Dunklin R-5 School District. But with its own program, more preschool-aged kids can enroll and greater academic continuity can be achieved as they transition from preschool to kindergarten.


34. Natomas Unified School District

In California, despite overall declining school enrollment in the state, suburban Sacramento is seeing an increase in enrollment due to more housing being built in the community. Natomas Unified School District in the city, opened a TK-8 school last year to account for the increasing student population. Elk Grove Unified School District, also in Sacramento, will open a new elementary school in the beginning of the next school year.


35. Change Health Charter School: Promote Learning Outside the Classroom

Change Health Charter School in Parkland County, Alberta, has a grand vision for outdoor learning. It wants to teach its kindergarten to Grade 9 students Alberta’s curriculum using the YWCA Camp Yowochas’s facilities, which is a 60 acre, year-round outdoor education centre. What is learned in the classroom in the morning can be experienced first-hand in the afternoon in a cross-curricular delivery model, says Camp Yowochas community manager Felicia Ochs. The school plans to open in September 2023.


36. Los Angeles Unified School District: Reduce Class Sizes

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, half of students are not meeting grade-level goals for reading and math, and the gap between students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from well-to-do communities is widening. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has proposed some solutions to reverse the trends. They include expanding the school year, reducing class sizes, increasing the frequency and quality of summer schools, adding professional development systems for teachers and launching new opportunities for early learning.


37. Taylor School District: Focus on Hands-on Differentiated Instruction

In the Taylor School District in Wayne County, Michigan, the kindergarteners and grade 1 students play math games, which they have come to love, receiving positive encouragement as they progress. They are part of the math enrichment program, called High 5s, developed by the University of Michigan. It’s a hands-on, small-group program that has helped close the achievement gap, raising the number of students who performed at grade level by 20 percentage points. The program has also increased kindergartener’s math performance by 15%.


38. School District 8 (SD8): Develop a Long-Term Literacy Plan

School District 8 (SD8) in Kootenay Lake, BC, has developed a three-year district literacy plan to improve literacy proficiency, after data revealed a dip in reading and writing scores among primary learners. The Primary Literacy Coherence model looks at class profile to see what needs to be worked on for each student from kindergarten throughout their primary years. Currently, the focus is on building capacity for Grade 1 and 2 teachers.


39. Waterloo Region District School Board: Ensure there is Professional Development in Utilizing Technology

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is offering a variety of reading and math support in classrooms, and providing educators with additional professional learning to address any learning gaps. With increased funding from Ontario’s Learning Recovery Action plan, WRDSB has also extended its Summer Learning Program from Kindergarten to Grade 2, to Kindergarten to Grade 6. Associate Director Lila Read says that there has been unprecedented skill development in the utilization of technology.


40. Rhodes School District: Create More Resource Rooms

Rhodes School District in River Grove, IL, will add 8 new classrooms devoted to Kindergarten and Grade 1, as a part of its $14 million expansion. Included in the expansion is a large courtyard featuring two outdoor classroom spaces, breakout rooms for private individual or group instruction, and reading areas. To facilitate student learning, the need for more resource rooms was a common suggestion from teachers


41. The Oxford School District: Engage with the Community

The Oxford School District and the Lafayette County School District in Louisiana, have developed a literacy education program called Lafayette Oxford University Early Learning Collaborative (LOUELC). Last year, the program increased the reading proficiency of pre-K students from 19% to 72%. A big part of the program is a collaborative group of local organizations and community leaders, who work together to focus on targeted efforts to improve reading, both inside and outside the classroom.


Provide Summer Learning Opportunities

42: Greene Elementary School

The North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) recently released information showing that students (on average) fell 2 to 15 months behind their academic pace. NCDPI says that students will need intensive academic intervention to get back on track. West Greene Elementary School Principal, Phil Cook, says that professional development, guiding resources, differentiated instruction and summer learning are all being used to cover the learning gaps.


43. Algoma District School Board 

Algoma District School Board (ADSB) is offering the Elementary Summer Learning Program this year during the summer break. The objective of the program, which focuses on literacy skills in the primary grades, is to provide literacy intervention to those students who really need it, and to minimize the summer learning loss. ADSB has registered 101 in-person attendees and 13 virtual attendees for the program so far.


44. The Fulton City School District: Appoint Early Learning Specialist Positions

The Fulton City School District (FCSD) in New York has created a new Director of Early Childhood position. Kelly Gates, Instructional Coach for pre-K to Grade 2, has been appointed, based on her vast experience in providing direct coaching support to teachers, assisting with their lessons, and  providing feedback and resources. With this appointment, FCSD Superintendent Brian Pulvino hopes to provide educational experiences that are engaging and developmentally appropriate.


45. Steamboat Springs School District: Introduce New Literacy Focused Curriculums

Steamboat Springs School District received a $1.2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Education to hire three full-time literacy coaches, and a literacy consultant who will create measurable goals for the district. Part of this focus on early literacy also includes introducing a new literacy-focused curriculum across the district to implement a more consistent approach to reading instruction.


46. Shelby County Schools: Affect Evidence-based Instructional Changes

Alabama State Department of Education named Shelby County Schools and Cullman City Schools as the only two Alabama Science of Reading Spotlight school districts. This distinction is for their strong commitment to supporting the implementation of the Science of Reading (SoR) for K-3 students, sustaining evidence-based instructional changes and setting high expectations. Local reading specialists were properly backed by the leadership in these two districts to deepen teachers’ SoR knowledge.


Do you enjoy hearing such stories of innovation from schools working to increase literacy rates? There is more from where this came from! This article will be updated in the future. You can always visit the Sprig Blog for the latest Sprig Article, or simply subscribe to our newsletter, Root to Fruit, which provides a blog roundup twice a month. 

5 Hidden Gems for Teaching Reading in Schools

In early literacy, there is a growing body of evidence which outlines the best way to teach young children how to read. 

Sprig Learning has covered these topics previously, such as highlighting the need for focused professional development, supporting existing roles such as principals, literacy coaches, and primary teachers, taking on projects aimed at alleviating literacy inequity, and dissecting evidence-based trends that are delivering results.

Furthermore, Sprig has covered the academic return on investment angle to achieving higher literacy scores, advised on the implementation of strategic reading instruction, and discussed the ideal cost-effective early reading intervention. 

The linked articles above should provide plenty of reading material for anyone looking to understand the drivers of early literacy success and managing all aspects of policies, resources and systems that go into raising literacy scores for prekindergarten, kindergarten and elementary school children. 

However, there is more information to process when it comes to teaching reading in schools and early learning centers. 


More Gems for Teaching Reading and Developing Early Literacy

More Gems for Teaching Reading and Developing Early Literacy

In Sprig’s research thus far, there have been advice and case studies that fell outside the purview of previously written articles. These bits of wisdom deserve to be highlighted however, as they have shown to be just as successful in closing the early literacy gap. 

When these five gems of recommendations listed below were followed, schools and early learning centers were successfully able to surpass student language and literacy learning indicators targets.


1. Pinpoint Problem Areas in the Early Literacy Journey

Carmen Alvarez, Director of Early Childhood Learning in the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, vouches for the ability to see where a student needs help, rather than just understanding if they are progressing or not. 

In her words “the ability for teachers to see the exact sounds a student is struggling with, and know which concepts students have mastered” are advantageous in teaching reading. 

It’s one thing to pass students along based on if they have met certain reading qualification criteria. It’s another approach to specifically zero in on certain difficulties that could hamper reading proficiency in the future. 


2. Integrated Reading Instruction for Holistic Reading Development

Dr. Gina Cervetti is an associate professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture at University of Michigan’s School of Education. She says that in the early years, “reading instruction needs to be integrated”. 

Learning the code of written language is critical, which deals with phonics and phonological awareness. Enriching conversations to develop student’s oral language and vocabulary is also critical in this equation for literacy success. 

This is not to be confused with a balanced approach. According to the evidence, alphabet knowledge and phonics instruction should be direct and systematic and inclusive for the whole classroom. But alongside these practices, there should also be enough conversations and reading sessions to help practice the reading concepts that are being taught.


3. Specifically Devise Strategies for Those Student Groups Who Need Extra Support

Strategic reading instruction should involve regular assessments, systematic instruction, and appropriate interventions for the whole classroom, so the right support can be assigned to students who should be in a different tier of support all together. 

Taking this bottom-up approach to instructional coverage ensures that every student receives an education that is of a high caliber, before being designated to another tier. 

Being assigned to another tier without receiving an evidence-based high-quality education can sometimes be at the detriment of other students, who need those same resources more.

 Sometimes however, a certain case may warrant devising a specific strategy for dealing with a certain group of students who are disadvantaged to begin with. This could be dyslexic students, or English Learner (EL) students.

Waltham Public Schools’s EL students grew to almost one fifth of the of the student body, which was twice the state average. These students fell behind their peers on foundational literacy measures and English and language arts assessments. 

To address the issues Waltham established a new elementary school to establish a language immersion program, used funds to invest in a literacy professional development program for dual language program’s teachers, and created a  summer program for the students. 


4. Use a Co-Teaching Arrangement to Provide Greater Supports

Three districts in northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts, made the decision to collaborate in order to strengthen inclusive practices for kids in grades PK–2 through a special education audit and professional development. 

A co-teaching approach was put into place where an occupational therapist was pushed into preschool and kindergarten classes to assist any students who needed it. 

Push-in versus pull-out strategies for differentiated instruction have their own merits, but there is no doubt that push-in strategies are more inclusive.

Push-in strategies deem the early literacy recovery or acceleration efforts serious enough, where they want the presence of both the homeroom teacher and the other specialist professional inside the classroom. These types of strategies want every student to benefit from a situation where these professionals co-teach with homeroom teachers in the classroom.


5. Differentiate Instructional Strategy Based on Parent Participation

Active parental involvement is an indicator of early literacy success. Passive participation is when the school has to prompt the parent to contribute or engage in their child’s learning process. Active participation is when the parents collaborate with the teacher and the school by themselves, before being told to. 

It’s great if parents have a way to see what is being taught, or receive insights into the learning strengths and weaknesses of their child, so they can offer help at home accordingly.  But beyond active participation, what ends up happening at home is also important for teachers to know so they can take necessary measures.

For example, the Conejo Valley Neighborhood for Learning Early Childhood Program in Ventura County, California, said they would reinforce the importance of daily reading. But soon they discovered that some parents had limited access to books. 

Upon learning this information, they “developed tips on how to use the same book repeatedly”. This specialized information was provided to those parents who needed this support. 


The Best Way to Teach Reading in Schools

Best way to teach reading

Along with the information covered in prior articles, Sprig hopes these 5 gems help schools and early learning centers to improve early literacy skills in students. 

The best way to teach reading will ultimately depend on the situation at the said school, but seeing what has worked in other places is always good for drawing inspiration, tweaking current strategies, or implementing new ideas. 

If you want more content on early literacy, be sure to check out the Sprig blog. We write blogs every week focusing on early reading instruction for both educators and administrators. Please consider joining our newsletter where you will be updated twice a month on the latest blogs, exclusive news from early learning and company updates.

A free trial of Sprig Reading is now available to all. It was developed accounting for many of the best practices teachers were using in the classroom to achieve up to 95% literacy at each grade level. 

With Sprig Reading, instructors can quickly learn how to assess what children already know and what they still need to learn in order to help them develop into strong and independent readers.

Sprig Reading offers student-centered, classroom-tested instructional and assessment strategies to improve the reading ability of every child. 

Both trial and subscription options are on the Sprig Reading page. 

How to Help Students with Dyslexia

October was dyslexia awareness month. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is having its annual conference today, called DyslexiaCon. Usually in the month of October or November, IDA plans its biggest event of the year, bringing together professionals, families, and those affected by dyslexia.

The early literacy community is involved in raising awareness about dyslexia that affects the reading ability of so many children around the world. 

In Canada alone, there are said to be over 750,000 dyslexic students. 

Sprig has previously written on how to build reading proficiency in dyslexic children. The article goes over the symptoms of dyslexia at various stages of early learning. It covers the characteristics of effective intervention, and features advice from reading programs that focus on dyslexia. Additionally, it explains the current state of dyslexia training for teachers. 

It is a must read for anyone interested in implementing reading best practices in the classroom. 

Regardless of the type and degree of training teachers have received on dyslexia, or their current level of knowledge, it’s never too late to create a more supportive learning experience for dyslexic students.

If you want to understand the basics of dyslexia and see proven characteristics of effective reading programs, do read Sprig’s Improving Reading with Dyslexia. 

This article is a follow up to that content, focusing exclusively on how teachers can support students with dyslexia. 


Helping Dyslexic Students- 4 Directives

Helping Dyslexic Students- 4 Directives

To maximize the reading potential for every child, including those with dyslexia, there are 4 things that need to happen.

  • A love for reading must be instilled early on.
  • The right learning environment must be provided.
  • First round of assessments should be done early.
  • Instruction should be direct and systematic at all levels of interventions.

The above four directives are further explored in the rest of the article. 


1. Make Reading Enjoyable

Dr. Cruger is a neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute. He says that typical tutoring may actually be harmful to a dyslexic early reader, especially if the experience is unpleasant.

He goes on to say that if a young student does not like the experience of reading help, the tutoring service will not be effective. 

A dyslexic child has to enjoy the experience of reading. Simply upping the dosage of practice will not help without offering positive reinforcements and encouragement along the way. 

Dr. Cruger recommends that teachers celebrate every small victory and accomplishment in the learning journey of dyslexic students. 


2. Offer Necessary Accommodations

Given dyslexic students need more support than the rest of the class, proper accommodations should be arranged for them so they don’t lose interest in the process of reading. 

Understood is a non-profit organization that offers resources for better understanding and dealing with learning differences such as dyslexia and ADHD. 

Understood’s former Director of Thought Leadership, Amanda Morin, offers tips on how to tweak classroom materials and routine to suit the needs of dyslexic children. 

Educators are asked to use coloured strips or bookmarks to make it easier for striving readers to concentrate on a line of text. They are encouraged to give detailed instructions and read aloud written instructions. 

The idea is to never leave a student in a state of confusion where they are too embarrassed to seek help. 


3. Address the Root Issue With the Early Assessment

The challenge in grasping foundational skills such as decoding is said to be the root problem of dyslexia. 

If this root issue is identified early enough, it is possible to mitigate the effects of dyslexia. It is why many states across the US have mandated dyslexia screening in early learning. Sprig considers the availability of such screenings important enough that it is featured as a question for state profiles in its interactive evidence-based early learning map

In a recent study by Maureen Lovett, Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Services at University of Toronto, learning outcomes for dyslexic kids were almost twice as good when interventions were delivered from Grade 1 to Grade 3. 

Early intervention is important for all children. But as dyslexic children require added support, their case for early intervention is even more acute.


4. Direct and Systematic Instruction at All Levels

As learning to read is an acquired ability, the brain needs a chance to learn about the relationships between sounds and letters. Most intervention methodologies follow a three tier system. 

Tier 1 refers to universal high-quality instruction for the whole classroom. Tier 2 refers to targeted intervention for small groups who need extra support. Tier 3 refers to intensive instruction for individual students. 

This framework applies very well to supporting dyslexic students, when it comes to matching the right instruction at each level. 

At tier 1, they are exposed to the acquisition of grade-level, fundamental skills that every student needs to learn reading, regardless of whether they have dyslexia or not. 

At tier 2 and tier 3, the progress of any dyslexic students is accelerated so they are able to efficiently bridge any learning gaps in order to participate in grade-level reading. 

So at all levels from the ground up, they are always scaffolded with extra support, beginning with inclusive whole classroom instruction with the possibility of in-classroom differentiated instruction. 

Such a direct and systematic approach to instruction ensures that any learning shortcomings are addressed in the beginning so every student can have their weaknesses addressed. 

In future years, greater support is provided so the dyslexic learner has the chance to work on their identified weaknesses while still being on route to reading at grade level, with age-appropriate reading materials. 


How Sprig Helps Dyslexic Readers

How Sprig Helps Dyslexic Readers

Unlike other children, dyslexic early learners often need more explicit instruction, intensive practice and targeted support. 

Sprig Reading: Powered by Joyful Literacy, provides ALL the assistance teachers, tutors and reading specialists need to make this possible.

Educators provide rigorous instruction and support to children with dyslexia by using an evidence-based and intuitive reading platform.

Sprig Helps Dyslexia

The planned scope and sequencing of lessons in Sprig Reading, together with its clear assessment and instructional strategies on foundational reading skill sets, provide a systematic literacy approach to helping all students with dyslexia. 

At the end of the day, dyslexia is very complex and new research on the reading brain continues to be published every quarter. 

But there is converging evidence on the type, frequency and timing of help dyslexic children need to receive. By adopting evidence-based reading strategies, it’s possible to boost the reading levels of dyslexic learners.

Why Guided Play-based Learning in Early Literacy?

Play-based learning is an approach to learning that maintains a child’s enjoyment of either free play or guided play while engaging with learning content. 

Free play is purely initiated and driven by the student, while guided play has some degree of teacher involvement.

In early literacy, play-based learning is proven to have a significantly positive effect on narrative language ability and grammar. 

Play-based learning with teacher guidance has been shown to raise phonemic awareness and phonics skills in kindergarteners. 

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that when literacy materials and teacher involvement are added to play-based learning, language skills improve significantly. 

With such a strong association between guided play-based learning and the advancement of early literacy skills, it’s worthwhile to explore the benefits of play-based learning, its examples and the extent of teacher involvement that constitute it. 

Play-based learning is one approach to differentiate learning— something Sprig has covered in a previous article showing how differentiated learning supports all other forms of learning

Indeed some children may display a greater preference for play. 

But by itself, play-based learning as a strategy for the whole classroom is a great way to improve early literacy scores.

Play-based learning supports early literacy development in multiple ways.


Benefits of Play-based Learning. How it Supports Early Literacy.

Benefits of Play-based Learning. How it Supports Early Literacy.


Directly Impacts Language and Reading Acquisition

Play-based learning enhances children’s literacy and language development. It allows children a chance to both learn and practice their newly acquired skills. 

Children are able to connect oral and textual modes of communication as they learn about  the structure and meaning of new words.


Drives Cognitive and Social Development which Moderates Language Development

Play-based learning engages all of early learners’ senses. It allows them to express their thoughts and feelings, investigate their surroundings, and make connections between what they already know and new information and abilities. Such cognition ability is helpful in learning how to read. 

As early learners playfully express themselves to their classmates and teachers, they bring their language, traditions, and culture into the classroom. Such healthy social development aids reading ability. 


Builds Learning Language Positivity

Just as there is a concept called positive identity as a math learner, the same concept carries over to language. A growth mindset is required to develop the confidence to improve reading skills. 

Including play in learning activities fosters a love of learning languages in kids. Children are more likely to learn and explore new literacy topics when they appreciate their learning environment. Including play in the classroom improves memory and new information retention — important factors in learning how to read. 


Provides Deep Understanding of the Required Components of Reading

Play-based learning evokes many other types of learning, such as inquiry-based learning, problem-solving, curiosity-based learning, etc. Working on all of these different types of learning is great for clarifying knowledge structures that ultimately lead to a deep understanding of language. 

Decoding words and understanding language are crucial for reading comprehension. A deep understanding of both processes can be grasped by direction instruction and play-based practice.


Examples of Play-based Learning

Examples of Play-based Learning

Examples of play-based learning need not be newly introduced to any early childhood or primary educator out there. They are so common in fact, that when listing them, one immediately recognizes their place in the classroom. 

Role-playing, drawing, using playdough, blocks and puzzles for learning activities, dancing and singing, are all considered to be a part of play-based learning. 

However, more so than just knowing these play-based activities, it’s important to understand how to engage in these activities. The next section describes what play-based learning looks like in action. 


Characteristics of Guided Play. Continuum of Student-driven and Teacher-led Play-based Learning.

Characteristics of Guided Play. Continuum of Student-driven and Teacher-led Play-based Learning

Guided play was distinguished from free play at the opening of this article, to demonstrate how effective play-based learning was when it had some level of involvement from the teacher, either as an organizer, observer or planner. 

But guided play should include some free play inside its structure in order for it to be truly classified as play-based learning.  

Dr. Angela Pyle, an early childhood education researcher from the University of Toronto says that guided play “starts with free play driven by the children and their imaginations, and ends with direct instruction, which is completely driven by the teacher.”


Guided play can be thought of as both student and teacher initiated. 

A child can initiate play by starting to play with an object. The teacher can then use the opportunity to teach literacy skills such as building vocabulary around the items that the child is curious about. 

But if the teacher creates centers in the classroom that are specifically made for play, then this whole process can be thought of as teacher initiated. 

High-quality classrooms use hands-on activities that are carefully planned by the teachers. The teacher can teach a child how to learn, instead of just what to learn. 

  Purposeful play experiences can be designed by teachers to create richer learning experiences that are better remembered and internalized by early learners. 


Guided play experiences are directed by the child and facilitated by the teacher. 

The ratio of direction and facilitation can be adjusted to ensure that the lesson plans are being met. 

It is chosen by the student, but teachers plan, observe and guide the whole experience. This type of educational experience is self-chosen by the student, but it is sufficiently process oriented. 


What Sprig Does with Play-based Learning

What Sprig Does with Play-based Learning

This article barely scratches the surface when it comes to the wonders of play-based learning! 

Primarily, it’s important to establish the specific link between play and early literacy. When this bond is understood however, there are many play-based strategies that can be explored. Some of them are codified in the Sprig Reading App, an interactive tool for Pre-K to Grade 2 teachers to implement evidence-based reading instruction.

To systematically instruct and practice hundreds of essential early literacy skills, a healthy amount of play is required in the classroom. Many actionable tips are showcased in the teacher training modules that are contained within Sprig Reading. 

The teacher has great responsibility in choosing the type of play-based activities and controlling their level of involvement to ensure that their students reap maximum benefits from guided play-based learning. 

For every foundational reading skillset, there are playbooks designed by former educators and researchers that have a demonstrable impact on improving those very skillsets. 

If done well, the play-based learning approach fosters the interest and curiosity of the students  through exchanges that are meant to challenge the students’ thinking.

Children who co-construct their early reading experience with classmates, apply what they learn to real-world situations and make significant discoveries while they work towards learning objectives.

For early literacy, this amounts to playing with word and language concepts to sufficiently develop the right skill sets in order to start reading.