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30 More Compelling Statistics in Early Learning (Early Literacy Edition)

This article is the second installment in our series on early literacy statistics. If you haven’t already explored the first edition, it is strongly recommended you do so, as it features 30 figures that shed light on the state of early learning in North America.

In the last edition, while many of the data points were pertaining to early literacy, some of them also covered early childhood education more broadly. 

In this article, full concentration is exclusively placed on early literacy, delving deeper into the subject matter.

This article both reinforces key points from the previous edition and introduces new ones. 

Without further delay, let’s delve into these 30 compelling statistics of early literacy. Each  grouping of similar statistics, is followed by a key insight. 

Compelling Early Literacy Stats


Early Literacy Statistics 1 to 5 (The Critical Window)

The American Institute of Research conducted a study analyzing longitudinal research to discern attributes of reading skill profiles. 

It extended previous early reading growth investigations to yield empirical evidence applicable on a national scale. 

The results obtained through growth mixture modeling point to five distinct groups of students with specific patterns of early reading development.

They are as follows, and they comprise of the first 5 statistics.

1. High Performers (5 percent of students represent high reading skills at the beginning of kindergarten and maintaining high reading skills).

2. Early Boosters (20 percent of students represent rapid growth between kindergarten and grade 1).

3. Average Learners (52 percent of students represent average initial reading skills and average reading growth).

4. Steady but Slow Learners (20 percent of students represent average initial reading skills but slow reading growth between kindergarten and grade 1).

5. Struggling Learners (3 percent of students represent low initial reading skills and inadequate reading growth during the first 4 years of school).


Key Insight: The time spanning from kindergarten to Grade 1 proves to be exceptionally vital, where early literacy development can either gain momentum, decelerate, or maintain an average pace. Irrespective of prior learning achievements, this period offers an extraordinary opportunity to effect lasting positive changes in a child’s educational journey.


Early Literacy Statistics 6 to 10 (The Grade 1 Turning Point)

6. There is strong evidence indicating that poor readers at the end of grade one have an 88% likelihood of being well below grade level after three additional years of regular instruction.

7. 80% of students that are struggling to read at the end of 1st grade continue to be struggling readers in fourth grade.

8. 90% of children with reading difficulties will achieve grade level in reading if they get help in the Grade 1.

9. 75% of children whose help is delayed to age 9 or later continue to struggle throughout their school years.

10. 74% of children who are behind in third grade will never catch up.


Key insight: Identifying the need for early reading intervention must be done before the conclusion of Grade 1, offering the best chance to equip struggling learners with essential reading skills. In more challenging circumstances, support may still prove beneficial up to Grade 2. However, delaying intervention until Grade 3 drastically diminishes the likelihood of positively altering a young student’s reading trajectory.


Early Literacy Statistics 11 to 13 (Needing Support Frameworks)

A survey encompassing more than 400 educators and administrators nationwide aimed to provide deeper insights into their perspectives on and adoption of Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS).

The findings affirmed that numerous schools are indeed delving into student support frameworks to pinpoint, prioritize, and provide evidence-based interventions for their students. The following numbers stand out:

11. Only 28% of educators say they are far along in implementing a tiered support framework.

12. 52% of respondents rely on spreadsheets to track interventions.

13. Despite 78% of educators saying they believe it’s important to track tiered interventions, only 30% say they are tracking interventions effectively today.


Key Insight: Although there is a clearly identified need for adopting a comprehensive evidence-based tiered support framework (such as the MTSS) for progress monitoring and assessing interventions for all students, widespread adoption is still on the horizon. This indicates an opportunity for their further refinement and enhancement in early literacy. 


Early Literacy Statistics 14 to 18 (Lack of Readiness Very Early On )

14. By the age of 2, children who are ready to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers.

15. Every year 40% of children walk into kindergarten one-to-three years behind grade level.


The Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation and the Canadian Child Care Federation initiated a national survey targeting early childhood educators (ECEs) to gain insights into the current role of early literacy and learning in Canadian childcare settings. 

The objective was to pinpoint potential gaps and opportunities within this context. The survey reached approximately 8,500 members, resulting in 1,108 responses from ECEs who shared their professional experiences. The ensuing statistics offer intriguing perspectives.

16. Only 38% report feeling confident in supporting the early literacy development of the children they work with. 

17. Only 35% report feeling confident in identifying a concern with a child’s language development.

18. Fewer than 50% of respondents engage the children they work with in early literacy activities every day, while over 35 % do so once a month or less frequently.


Key Insight: Early literacy disparities emerge in the early stages of a child’s life, primarily due to differing circumstances and opportunities. Consequently, children arrive at kindergarten with varying levels of readiness. This creates a crucial window of opportunity during preschool to address and bridge these disparities. However, early childhood educators often lack the confidence and knowledge required to effectively assess, intervene, and tackle early literacy issues.


Early Literacy Statistics 19 and 20 (Interventions Do Work)

19. Wallace Foundation’s The School Administration Manager Projects, highly recommends that principals spend 50% or more of their time related to instructional work, including assessment that informs teaching and learning. 

20. Of the children who receive intervention in kindergarten and continue to require remedial support in first grade, 58% perform at average levels on all reading achievement measures by the end of first, second, and third grades.


Key Insight: Early literacy interventions, especially when applied at the right time,have proven to work. There must be sufficient planning at the administrative level to ensure the implementation of diagnostic assessments and progress monitoring,thereby facilitating targeted support for students.


Early Literacy Statistics 21 to 23 (Addressing the Root Issue)

21. Meta-analysis of close to 75,000 studies revealed that early literacy interventions are effective and instruction in language, phonological awareness, and decoding increases the likelihood of success in reading. 

22. For the first time, more than half of the elementary teacher education programs have adopted tenets of the Science of Reading in their curriculum.

23. High-quality tier 1 classroom instruction using an evidence-based, scientifically researched core curriculum meets the needs of about 80 to 90% of students.


Key Insight: Interventions are crucial, but they also emphasize the importance of enhancing core instruction to minimize the need for timely interventions. There’s a shift in the way educators are being trained in reading instruction. Foundational reading skills require explicit teaching and assessment, and evidence already suggests that this approach meets the needs of a significant portion of students in the classroom.


Early Literacy Statistics 24 to 26 (Resources Being The Equity Leveler) combines learning science, mentorship, and technology to create family and community partnerships that provide access, excellence, and equity in early education for all children. In their article on “Equity vs. Equality in Education,” they present the following key statistics:

24. 60% of the most disadvantaged students come from under-resourced homes or communities.

25. 62% of schools in high-poverty areas report that it is challenging to retain high-quality teachers.

26. While 97% of teachers acknowledge the importance of equity, a significant number remain unsure about the most effective ways to promote it in their classrooms.


Key Insight: Due to limited budgets in their families or schools, students in high-poverty areas often lack equitable resources, making it challenging to provide for their educational needs. Under-resourced communities struggle to retain impactful educators who play a vital role in their students’ lives. It’s not just about retaining teachers; it’s also crucial to empower them with effective resources that benefit all students in their classrooms.


Early Literacy Statistics 27 to 30 (Need for Educator Support)

27. On average, a $1,000 decrease in per-pupil spending leads to a 3.9 percent of a standard deviation reduction in average test scores for math and reading.


The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit, is dedicated to conducting comprehensive, nonpartisan research aimed at enhancing policy and governance on local, national, and global scales. A brief from the Brookings Institute’s Center for Universal Education offers insights into a global catalog of educational innovations. It is part of a series of snapshots on Leapfrogging in Education and reveals the following eye-opening statistics:

28. In a survey where Ed-Tech Innovations can select multiple goals, 84% of ed-tech innovations focus on improving students’ skills, whether cognitive or socioemotional, while 23% focus on improving teaching.

29. On supporting the learning process, 67% of Ed-Tech innovations focus on playful, hands-on learning, whereas 25% of them focus on tools to unburden teachers. 

30. Literacy is the most common skill targeted by technology innovations, at 61%.


Key Insight: Much emphasis is placed on leveraging technological innovations to address literacy, which is certainly appropriate given the other statistics presented in this article. However, it’s important to note that the majority of these innovations are geared toward helping students directly, rather than supporting educators in teaching these students effectively.


What These Early Literacy Statistics Tell Us

What These Early Literacy Statistics Tell Us 

In conclusion, this exploration of early literacy statistics  has unveiled several key insights that shed light on the complexities and opportunities surrounding early literacy. 

Following these key insights, the following scenario emerges: 

There exists a crucial window for timely intervention. Within this timeframe, there is a pivotal juncture at which intervention should be implemented. 

Schools are in the initial stages of mastering tiered support systems to identify those in need of intervention. 

The root cause of the significant disparities requiring intervention in the first place is the lack of equitable resources even before a child starts school. 

While interventions have proven effective, this system must be fine-tuned for incoming students. 

Part of this fine-tuning process includes reducing dependency on  interventions, which can be achieved via strengthening  core instruction.

While plenty of solutions exist to help students directly, teachers should also be equipped with resources to improve early literacy. The availability and use of these resources constitute the key to leveling the playing field.

Improve Student Achievement in Early Learning: Learn from 5 Remarkable Case Studies (Looking At 16 Schools)

Student success is often top of mind for educators and administrators. 

Most other early learning outcomes, whether academic, socio-emotional, or more holistic in nature, are intricately connected to the overarching goal of student achievement.

At Sprig Learning, our focus lies in finding effective early learning solutions tailored for teachers instructing preK to Grade 3 children. 

The mission involves facilitating successful learning experiences by presenting proven strategies that have worked for various schools, families and communities.

Sprig has previously presented stories and themes centered around enhancing early learning in school districts. This article covers successful case studies. It sheds light on 5 compelling case studies derived from 16 different schools across the US. 

Each case study is paired with key takeaways, providing valuable insights for both educators and administrators.


Case Study 1. Key Lessons in Closing Achievement Gaps: Insights from Successful Urban School Districts

Case Study 1. Key Lessons in Closing Achievement Gaps- Insights from Successful Urban School Districts

Credit: Google Earth. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School.


In the early 2000s, Houston Independent School District, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Sacramento Unified School District were able to reduce the achievement gap for disadvantaged and minority students. 

They demonstrated an upward trend of overall student achievement for at least three years.

Improvement was consistent and the rate of improvement was higher than in comparison districts. 

All three of these large urban school districts shared commonalities regarding what worked for them in improving student success.

They were able to align curricula with state standards and translate these standards into instructional practice.

In particular, attention was paid to the lowest performing schools to help them with resources, teachers and administrators. 

Data from early and ongoing assessments were provided to educators and principals to help identify both student and teacher weaknesses, so improvements could be made.

Changes began at the elementary level, emphasizing shared accountability between the board and superintendent for student success, with refined joint visions and enduring relationships.


Takeaway: Systematic and Acute Planning for Better Student Results

There were so many critical and important decisions at these three school districts. At the heart of it all was directed planning.  

It was decided from the beginning that the goal would be to improve the assessment scores of those students at the lower end of the achievement distribution.

Every other decision was made in support of this ultimate goal. 

The alignment between the board and the superintendent was ensured from the beginning, to solidify the vision.

The standard of content and instruction were raised that would benefit the students once the changes were made.

On a day-to-day level, the frequent usage of assessment data came into practice, which really helped educators identify students in need of greater support.

From top to bottom, the plan was created and executed to accomplish the set goal of reducing performance disparity.


Case Study 2. Boosting Literacy Skills: Andover Schools’ Success Story

Case Study 2. Boosting Literacy Skills- Andover Schools' Success Story

Credit: Andover Public Schools


Andover Public Schools was able to decrease the share of K–2 students scoring below benchmark on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment by ten percentage points for the 2018-2019 school year. 

DIBELS is a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of literacy skills. 

In that same school year, there was a 14% decrease in out-of-district placements. An out-of-district placement occurs when it is determined that a student needs more intensive support than can be provided in the district. 

Andover partnered with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions, to develop literacy micro-credentialing coursework throughout the first half of the school year. There were 25 Instructional Assistants from 5 elementary schools that were selected.

The training included ten hours of instruction on leading literacy interventions. It also consisted of structured observations of both advanced and struggling readers.


Takeaway: Training Paraprofessionals Via Collaborations

Andover Public schools realized that their educators needed more support in providing the type of specific interventions that were required to help struggling readers. 

Such help was ensured very smartly through a collaboration with a local institution, so certain members of the early learning workforce could be appropriately upskilled. 

Seeing the success of involving the instructional assistants, Andover will continue to measure students’ growth in literacy over time, to deploy the right resources to services involving paraprofessionals.

It’s important to partner with the right organizations who have the capacity to train specialists who are adept at doing a particular task. They greatly help teachers in assisting those students who demand more attention. 


Case Study 3. Transforming Kindergarten Readiness: Indianola’s Inspiring Success Amid Challenges

Case Study 3. Transforming Kindergarten Readiness- Indianola's Inspiring Success Amid Challenges

Credit: Google Earth. Sunflower County Consolidated School District.


The community in Indianola, Mississippi was able to increase the rate of kindergarten readiness by nearly 25%, despite struggling with lack of access to resources and intergenerational poverty. 

Since 2014, there’s been a consistent rise in the percentage of kindergarten entrants who meet or exceed the assessment threshold predicting third-grade reading proficiency.

This was accomplished by working with the Indianola Promise Community to create better early childhood programs and services in the area and the local school district.

The Early Head Start Child Care Partnership program’s Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®1) scores from different teachers were analyzed to identify teachers making the most gains with their students.

(CLASS®1) is a PreK teacher-child observation instrument used to assess preK children. 

These high-quality teacher-child interactions were studied for modeling purposes. 

The strategic use of data to align early childhood strategies continued into elementary school. 

The Sunflower County Consolidated School District in Indianola had to build the culture of using data at the classroom level. 

The district created a tracker that each teacher, principal, superintendent, school could use.

The data from this tracker was used to identify students who needed extra support. Targeted interventions were subsequently personalized to meet students’ needs. 

The school district also regularly sent data cards home to families and provided activities to help parents interpret the data. 


Takeaway: A Joint Effort Between Early Learning Programs, the School District and Families.

What happened in the community of Indianola is a classic example of involving the whole community to be more child centric. 

By sharing data between the early learning programs, the school district, and the parents, it became easier to track student progress as they moved through the education system.


Case Study 4. Valuable Insights from Chicago Elementary Schools: Strategies for Elevating Standardized Test Gains

Valuable Insights from Chicago Elementary Schools- Strategies for Elevating Standardized Test Gains

Credit: Abc 7 Chicago


The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research conducted a study on 6 elementary schools in Chicago Public Schools. Three of the schools had improving Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) Scores, while three of them had declining or flat ISAT scores. The ISAT (now discontinued) measured achievement in both reading and math from grade 3 to grade 8. 

The schools with improving ISAT scores shared similar traits. The names were anonymized in the case studies. 

The findings provide an insight as to what can be done to achieve higher learning gains on standardized tests.

The lessons congregate around two themes — individualizing student goals and systematizing approach to meeting goals. 


Takeaway 1: Individualizing Student Goals

Differentiating instruction is the first step of the personalization of instruction. It usually refers to differentiating by groups of students. 

For example, in the case studies, the staff identified different tiers of support for student groups. 

Tutoring programs were made available for students who needed extra support. Counseling was made available for students with attendance issues. 

But beyond differentiated group instruction, a culture had been created to support and nurture each and every student at an individual level, without constraining any of the existing resources.

The staff encouraged students to set their own learning goals. Learning was very personalized where students took ownership over what they learned and met the goals they set for themselves. 

Indeed, activating early learners by getting them to own their learning is one of the suggested best practices of formative assessments, a type of assessment used widely by educators across North America. 

If anyone steered off track with lower grades or missed assignments, teachers met with the students and parents to find out what’s happening. 

There were also homeroom teachers in place to make interventions after observing a student and their behaviors across the different classes. 

In the Sprig Learning platform, it’s possible to filter down to the individual level, where a history of assessments and activities completed can be seen for any student. 


Takeaway 2: Establishing Mechanisms for Ongoing Progress Monitoring

The expectation for schools in the case studies, was for every student to reach high academic levels. 

The staff met in grade level teams to set growth targets in reading, math and attendance for the year. 

Teachers and administrators collaborated to monitor progress towards goals by regularly meeting in grade-level and vertical-planning teams.

Administrators helped educators  break down the data by student, classroom, and grade level. 

The Sprig platform also allows teachers, staff and administrators to filter data by classroom and grade, facilitating grade-level and vertical-planning meetings.

Even where leadership was decentralized and educators were given more freedom to take actions best suited to help their students, there was some sort of mechanism in place to ensure progress was being made.

At regular intervals (every 5 weeks, in one example), the principals or instructional coaches looked at student progress reports to identify trends. In grade-level meetings, teachers are asked to explain their choice of assignments. Coaches would provide feedback to teachers on their assignments.

Teachers would also get together to give each other advice about how to help students. 

Though collaboration time and preparation time were scheduled, teachers would often meet before and after school and during lunch breaks to discuss such matters.

Lack of time for educators is often cited as one of the major challenges in early learning. Even in success stories, it’s seen that teachers have to improvise work hours in order to accomplish everything that they want to. 

It helps to have a platform that keeps all student data in one place, and makes that platform available to all educators and professionals who consult on a certain student’s learning. 

It certainly speeds up things in getting everyone on the same page when it’s time to discuss learning needs, thereby saving valuable time for all educators involved. 


Case Study 5. Unveiling Success: Key Insights from Maryland’s High-Performing Schools

Case Study 5. Unveiling Success- Key Insights from Maryland's High-Performing Schools

The Maryland State Department of Education did a cross case analysis of some of its schools that were classified as high-performing or high-growth for disadvantaged student groups, such as students from low-income families, minority students, and English language learners. 

The performance or growth of such performance, was measured using the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the Maryland School Assessments. 

Looking at five elementary schools (Chillum, Bel Air, Chadwick, James. H Harrison and North Frederick) from four different counties, many common characteristics were identified. 


Takeaway: Empowering Education Through Data-Informed Strategies and Collaborative Cultures

Schools that integrated ongoing data analysis into their teaching practices demonstrated a commitment to understanding their current situation and progress.

This involved regular meetings among teachers and instructional staff to discuss data and adjust instruction based on insights gained. This foundation of data-driven decision-making enabled schools to identify areas of improvement and set up practices to address them effectively.

Additionally, revising curriculum, adopting new instructional materials, offering multiple interventions like tutoring and extended day academic help, and implementing summer school programming played pivotal roles in raising education quality. These multifaceted interventions catered to the diverse needs of students, offering targeted support to those who needed it most.

By zooming out to the entire class, schools could explore innovative instructional approaches and materials that aligned with both rigorous standards and individual learning styles. 

Ultimately, these strategies created a holistic educational experience, closing the loop on the data-driven cycle and fostering a collaborative culture that propelled student achievement.


Improving Student Achievement– Replicating Early Learning Student Successes 

Improving Student Achievement– Replicating Early Learning Student Successes

Having read all of these case studies, one notices that they each have slightly different goals. Some specifically wanted to reduce the success gap between groups of students, others catered more towards kindergarten preparedness, while others focused on raising performance on tests. 

All are however related to improving student achievement, which remains a topmost priority for all school districts and schools in North America. 

Whether it’s creating the right vision for early learning, or writing a high-performing school improvement plan, Sprig likes to present what works for schools with articles such as these.

The findings from these five case studies provide invaluable insight. They demonstrate that it is indeed possible to ensure school readiness, achieve greater scores and reduce the performance gap by taking the right actions. 

Hopefully, these shared experiences from school districts across the continent are useful to you. To explore solutions that help to replicate such early learning student success, please see our homepage.

The Power of Early Childhood Education: 4 Critical Reasons to Prioritize ECE

Sprig Learning creates holistic and inclusive early learning programs for pre-K to Grade 3 students. 

Early childhood education is defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the National Association for the Education of Young Children as birth to 8 years of age. This corresponds to pre-K to Grade 3 in the education system.

It’s the early years from Pre-K to Grade 3 that is especially critical.

There are many reasons for this. Chief among which are:

  1. Pre-Kindergarten is an underserved market. 
  2. There is a strong connection between pre-kindergarten and the primary years.
  3. Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a powerful driver of educational equity.
  4. Evidence-based early literacy instruction can be introduced as early as pre-K.

Each reason is elaborated upon below, accompanied by an ideal scenario that adequately addresses the point raised.


1) Pre-Kindergarten is An Underserved Market 


Funding for K-12 schools are treated differently than funding for preschools in both Canada and the US. 

There simply aren’t as many preschool programs as there are elementary schools operated by school districts.

To demonstrate, approximately 1.6 million children attend preschools in the US. This number includes both private pre-kindergarten programs, and also federal- and state-funded public preschool programs. 

Contrast that with the 3.4 million children in the US that attend kindergarten in public schools. Even without including private or charter schools, it’s more than twice the amount of preschool children. 

Preschool is a vital part of early childhood education. However, lower preschool enrollments compared to K-12 education directly contribute to limited funding opportunities.

Insufficient funding leads to a lack of long-term vision and a scarcity of innovative solutions in early learning. Sprig is committed to ensuring that this market receives the support it deserves.

Ongoing research has shown that the greatest brain development in children occurs between birth to age 8. 

Take a look at these compelling early learning statistics. They all speak to the importance of healthy early childhood development.


Ideal Scenario

Government, foundations, and private organizations actively contribute to financing early learning centers and programs, a recurring topic covered in Sprig’s newsletter. Additionally, the realization of universal preschool would further bolster support for early learning initiatives.


2) There Is a Strong Connection Between Pre-K and Primary Education

Connectoion Between Pre-K and Post-K

The primary goal of a preschool system is focused towards ensuring kindergarten readiness. In order to ensure readiness, the quality of pre-kindergarten education has to match that of the education provided in the primary years.

Just like secondary school students taking advanced placement (AP) courses to prepare for college or university, the introduction of high-quality material beforehand paves the way for a seamless transition to the next stage.

Similarly, are preschool students gradually introduced to the skills and concepts that they will need to apply in kindergarten to make the best of their learning? 

If this is not the case, then there is a risk of a chasm developing, one which is difficult to cross for early learners. 

Sprig has a myriad of high-quality evidence-based activities that work on essential early language and math development components.

In a study done in Virginia at a mixed-urban school district, pre-kindergarten attendance had a significant effect on the literacy achievement of Grade 1 students. 

Students who attended the district’s preschool program had a higher percentage of students meeting or surpassing the reading benchmark versus those students who did not.  

There are many more studies that affirm how the presence of accessible and high-quality preschool programs directly correlates with subsequent student success.


Ideal Scenario

Preschool programs (with increased funding and support) innovate to ensure greater quality. Sprig has previously written on what a high-quality early learning program looks like. 

Some of the items on the checklist are: adequately equipping the classroom with educational materials, ensuring ongoing communication and offering opportunities for multiple kinds of play.


3) ECE is a Powerful Driver of Educational Equity

Increased Educational Equity

​​The world is embracing increased educational autonomy, allowing individuals with curiosity for a subject to pursue self-teaching. We so often hear of success stories from people who did not go to college, or in some cases, did not even graduate high school.

But even for those individuals, early education was important! 

There was a teacher, or some other mentor in the early grades, who left a profound impression on them. It motivated them to go on and develop expertise in their fields in traditional or non-traditional ways.

Other than this spark of inspiration that allowed this curiosity or inquiry-based learning to flourish, developing the fundamentals of early literacy and numeracy was also important.

These foundational skills served as building blocks, enabling individuals to innovate, generate ideas, and execute them with confidence.

Considering this, it is disheartening to acknowledge that many young students are deprived of a high-quality early education. This deprivation denies them even a glimpse of inspiration and the essential learning skills they deserve.


Ideal Scenario

If the accessibility and quality of early learning programs improve, as stated in reasons 1 and 2, it should automatically make a difference in providing the right type of education to young students who need it most.

By addressing the issue of excessive reliance on standardized assessments and acknowledging the impact of implicit bias in early learning, we can significantly enhance educational equity.To understand how these two things affect equity, check out this article.

Sprig has devised several strategies to combat these challenges. One notable approach is the implementation of holistic assessments, which consider diverse learning perspectives and maintain longitudinal data tracking to foster accountability.


4) Evidence-based early literacy instruction can be introduced as early as pre-K.

There is a rise of evidence-based early literacy instruction being mandated in teacher training programs and in school curriculums. This wave of evidence-based early literacy is affecting educators and students in all grades, including pre-K!

Studies have shown that children who receive evidence-based early literacy instruction in pre-K exhibit higher levels of phonological awareness, vocabulary development, and reading readiness compared to their peers who did not receive such instruction. 

This early exposure to literacy skills not only enhances their reading and writing abilities but also cultivates a lifelong love for learning and literature. 

It’s not just that there is a link between early learning and academic achievement in the later grades, but the fact that concentrated effort earlier on can prevent excessive learning loss and avoid costly and ineffective interventions. 

Early interventions are important, but the best approach is to provide students with very strong core tier 1 instruction from the beginning. 

By opting for an evidence-based approach to instruction that focuses on foundational skills that have been proven to lead to reading success, all students receive the support they need. This reduces the need for later interventions and sets them up for long-term academic achievement.


Ideal Scenario

School districts collaborate closely with preschools in their areas to ensure that preschoolers receive developmentally appropriate and research-based instruction. Such collaboration can be in the form of joint professional development, lending resources or sharing tools.

It makes for a much smoother transition from preschool to kindergarten when the kids have taken part in early literacy activities such as shared reading and have been exposed to concepts such as alphabets and letter sounds.

To create an ideal evidence-based early childhood classroom, there is a considerable amount of work to be done. The University of Central Florida has developed a professional development tool that serves as an observation guide to ensure correct implementation.

As such, preschool organizations require all the assistance they can get to ensure alignment with research and create optimal learning environments. It helps when another organization also focusing on early learning, such as an elementary school, who has undertaken similar evidence-based PD can impart this knowledge and practice to the preschools.


Moonshot: Taking Early Childhood Education Where it Needs to Be

Taking Educational Equity Where it Needs to be

​​Sprig Learning wants to ensure every child has a fair shot at success. Starting early is so important to achieving this aspiration!

This article hopes to make it clear why ECE should be prioritized– demonstrating a need for it in the market, its connection to student success, its ties to educational equity, and the opportunity that exists at the present to apply evidence-based learning to the totality of a school system, starting from pre-K!

To join us and discuss ideas on how, together, we can raise the bar of early childhood education, please get in touch with our team.

The Heart, the Art, and the Science of Reading

Teachers who successfully merge the Heart, the Art and the Science of Reading in their classrooms see 90% of their children reading at grade level in kindergarten, grade one, grade two and therefore, likely for the rest of their school experience. 

Then why is it that as many as 40% of Canadian grade three students, and over 60% of American grade four students are not reading at-grade level? 

The reason? As educators, we have not learned how to effectively balance the scientific needs of children to become fluent readers while at the same time embedding our teaching strategies with both art and heart. 

Over the decades, we have excelled at implementing many effective classroom practices that were designed by innovative classroom teachers and academics. We can be proud of our learning as educators and the many achievements of our most struggling learners. 

However, researchers like Dr. Clyde Hertzman, Dr. Kilpatrick and other medical experts advise that over 90% of all children are capable of reading at-grade level; the only exceptions would be children who have diagnosed medical challenges, and children who will require expert medical assistance and additional classroom support.


Setting Things Right with Heart, Art and Science

By understanding the true potential of reading success, and exploring the components of Heart, Art and Science, we can establish effective approaches that support reading development. 

So, how do we embed the Heart, the Art, and the Science in ways that will help us reach that essential goal of a 90% success rate for our young children? 

Let’s examine each component:


The Heart in Reading

The Heart in Reading

Heart cannot be learned, and this is what makes teachers so special. Most educators enter the profession for the singular purpose of working to support children as they learn. This requires the central characteristic of a love for children, a joy that automatically surfaces as we work and play, a natural inclination for playfulness and celebration of progress, compassion for moments of a child’s anxiety, insecurity and struggles, and unlimited patience for each individual child. 

Teachers who don’t possess these qualities or can’t develop them, rarely last in the profession. 

I remember when I was in grade three in the 1950’s, our student rows were competing in a choral reading exercise where we were expected to read simultaneously with expression. My row included a struggling student who simply was incapable of keeping up with the rest of us. The result? At the close of the competition, our row was required to stand while the teacher walked down our row hitting each of us on the shoulder with her pointer as punishment. No heart there! 

The heart of reading lies in its transformative power to foster empathy and understanding. Reading, after all, is much more than decoding words on a page, but rather an immersive experience that allows the child to connect with others.

In the incident described, the student exerted his best effort, despite his difficulties, showing a genuine desire to engage with the text. The heart of reading is needed because it builds the perseverance to learn and shows all early learners the profound impact reading words can have on their lives. It reminds us to approach the act of reading with patience and encouragement. 


The Art in Reading

The Art in Reading

Dr. Tim Rasinski, international expert in the field of fluency, comprehension and word studies, recently penned a new book with colleagues titled Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading. He eloquently describes the interdependence of artful teaching with the science of reading: 

“Science yes, but also a Need for Art. We contend through this book that what is missing from a ‘science-only’ approach to reading instruction is an equal emphasis on what we term “artfulness” in teaching reading.  An artful and scientific approach to reading instruction not only focuses on the need for developing proficiency in the various scientifically identified reading competencies and high achievement in overall reading proficiency, but also aims to develop in students a positive attitude towards reading and an inclination toward a lifelong engagement with reading. Even scientists who have studied reading note the importance of artfulness necessary for reading instruction.”

He continues to say:

“…but teachers should still have the space for making pedagogical decisions about how reading instruction actually occurs. It is in this space that teachers are encouraged to be artful. The most effective teachers are ones who embrace both a scientific and artful disposition toward their reading instruction…If you want to be a truly effective teacher, you must be an artist as well as a scientist.”

The artful dimension of reading instruction acknowledges that teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the learning experience. They know their students best, and thus can create dynamic and engaging environments, and design meaningful learning activities that best resonate with their class. There is space for artistry here which allows them to tap into their creativity, while at the same time adhering to the scientific aspect of reading instruction. 


The Science of Reading

The Science of Reading

Why does this term scare so many teachers, and why are so many parents demanding it in their children’s classrooms? Parents are demanding it because in most grade four classrooms across North America – according to post-covid statistics – the majority of children are not reading fluently. 

It becomes very challenging (and expensive) for school systems to help those struggling readers catch up beyond grade four.  Many of these children feel defeated and are tired of the continual difficulties they encounter; parents’ dreams of their child’s post-secondary careers are drowning while they helplessly watch their child struggle to read; the school system does not always have the resources needed to change the trajectory on which most of these children are travelling.

Why is the school system struggling to support almost half of the student population? Even pre-covid, the system was not doing much better for young readers.  

Prior to the year 2000, there were very few reliable brain research studies in the field of early literacy; this ultimately resulted in random and inconsistent creation and selection of early reading programs. There were the “Reading Wars” in the 1980’s and 1990’s where some educators made radical, unbalanced, and subjective choices of instructional strategies. The resulting inequities in the system were the inevitable outcome.

Let’s simplify and clarify the Science of Reading discussion. 

The Science of Reading is based on multiple banks of excellent quality research projects that studied thousands of effective and successful reading programs in real classrooms (The National Reading Panel, 2000; The NELP Report (2009), National Early Literacy Panel (2000), the National Association for the Education of Young Children, (2022) to name just a few). These studies concur that the following skill competencies should be part of effective and successful reading programs from pre-kindergarten to grade two:

  • Phonics and Alphabet Knowledge,
  • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness,
  • Rapid Automatized Naming,
  • Shared Reading and Writing,
  • Comprehension and Fluency,
  • Vocabulary and Oral Language, combined with
  • Word Study, Word Families and Word Play.

There is nothing new about any of this; when I began teaching in the mid-sixties, every single one of these skill competencies was part of the basic reading programs that teachers were obliged (by law) to be used in our classrooms.

What is new is the fact that these thousands of pages of research now provide us with guidance on how to introduce these skills within playful and joyful classrooms. The research also now provides us with a sequentially ordered breakdown of the detailed skills essential for reading mastery. 

Current research suggests the order within which the skills should be taught as well as the appropriate developmental stages of readiness of early learners. It connects proposed reading practices with brain research. 


Heart, Art and Science Learnings In Application

Heart, Art and Science Learnings In Application

Highly respected authors such as Dr. Maria Walther, Dr. Tim Rasinski, Dr. Anne Cunningham, Dr. Louisa Moat, and Dr. Linnea Ehri, among many others, have flooded the market with exceptional ‘how to’ books that support teachers with powerful implementation strategies. 

In my own work (with Joyful Literacy Interventions and now with Sprig Learning) we have been able to prove that when we ensure our reading programs focus on the  the seven foundational reading competencies listed above, and implement  assessment, tracking and monitoring capabilities , we can bring 90% reading success to all children by the end of grade two. 

In working with Sprig Learning, we have developed Sprig Reading – an intuitive and interactive teacher resource that not only assesses the foundational reading skills, but provides the instructional and classroom planning support for teachers that is needed to ensure 90% of children are reading at-grade level.

Let us embrace this new knowledge about the seven, evidence-based competencies and joyfully explore how much more effective we can be as teachers when we implement new strategies that reflect this compelling research. Let’s look forward to celebrating the increased success of our struggling learners and our own professional growth.

Dr. Janet N. Mort

Dr. Janet N. Mort

About the Author

Dr. Janet Nadine Mort is an early literacy scientist who is responsible for the reading success of countless vulnerable primary learners. Upon retirement in 2007, after a 35-year career as a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools on Vancouver Island, Mort attained a PhD in language and literacy.

Join some of the respected authors mentioned in this section for an amazing evidence-based professional development event this fall.

Find and close gaps in early literacy to achieve 90% early literacy success.

Sprig Learning is Selected for Measures for Early Success Initiative to Advance Equitable Early Childhood Assessments!

Ottawa, May 23, 2023. Sprig Learning is thrilled to announce its participation in the Measures for Early Success initiative led by MDRC with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This groundbreaking initiative envisions a future where early childhood assessments play a crucial role in promoting equitable learning outcomes for all young children.

Reliable and unbiased information about children’s needs, progress, skills, and classroom experiences is essential in building high-quality and equitable early learning systems. As part of the Measures for Early Success cohort, Sprig Learning is committed to developing a holistic and innovative math assessment tool for pre-K educators, children, and families to support more equitable early learning outcomes.

Sprig Learning Co-Founder and CEO, Jarrett Laughlin, states that, “Our team is encouraged by the immense potential of this initiative for all young children. It is an opportunity to reimagine the landscape of early learning assessments, where we leverage the power of equity driven design to support the unique gifts and ways of knowing for every early math learner, ultimately shaping a brighter future for early childhood education”.

Through this initiative, Sprig Learning seeks to address the existing gaps in collecting reliable data on children’s needs, competencies, progress, and classroom experiences in pre-K mathematics. The ultimate goal is to empower math educators with actionable insights to tailor instruction and support to meet the unique needs of every child, while also minimizing bias and administrative burdens.

Faud Khan, Sprig Learning Co-Founder and CTO, says “Being recognized as one of a handful of education solutions (and the only Canadian company) that is able to design and develop such an innovation in early learning assessment is truly an honor! At Sprig, we are committed to developing transformative technology that promotes equitable learning outcomes for all young children”. 

Relishing the opportunity to expand upon our proven success in Canada, Sprig Learning eagerly looks forward to collaborating with our partners at Zeno Math, St. Francis Xavier University, Mighty Play and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey to turn this initiative into a reality for early learners throughout the United States. 

Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, professor of mathematics education who holds the John Jerome Paul Chair for Equity in Mathematics Education states that, “It is important to design learning and assessment tools that are asset based and focused on understanding children’s strengths. This initiative fosters the development of culturally enabling assessment resources that honor and value the culturally and linguistically diverse communities we aim to support”. 

To learn more about the Measures for Early Success initiative and our involvement, please visit  

For further inquiries and media requests, please contact Rahat at or dial (613)-212-2225.

About Sprig Learning

Sprig Learning

Sprig Learning builds evidence-based, personalized and culturally relevant early learning assessments and resources that provide every child a fair shot at success.



42 Key Figures Today in Early Childhood Education in North America

Sprig Learning is indebted to all educators who continuously think about ways to improve the quality of education in preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools. 

It is great motivation for continued innovation in the holistic approach to lifelong learning and creating evidence-based platforms that will improve early academic outcomes. 

Early childhood education (ECE) has come a long way. Many important thinkers have left their imprint on how to educate children. 

This article is being updated to double the number of key early childhood education influencers who are leaving their mark, from 21 key figures to 42 key figures.

These 42 people have made a difference in ECE and continue to do so.

Five themes of influencers can be identified. 

From the last time this article was published, two new categories of influencers have emerged: organization influencers and structured literacy influencers. 

We comment on the five themes and then cover the 42 figures. 

Each personality brings something different to the table. 


The Five Themes of Influencers

5 Themes of Early Childhood Education Influencers


Resource Focus

These influencers fill a specific need in the market for educational materials which offers lots of room for innovation. In almost all of the cases they are educators, using their years of experience in teaching to speak to fellow educators. Educators tend to rely on each other for creative early learning materials and resources, which have stood the test of time and delivered results. 

The influencers tend to support their websites with a strong social media presence, which act as great vehicles to reach more like-minded individuals interested in bettering early learning in classrooms. 


Knowledge Focus

These influencers take a more academic approach to bringing forth new ideas and theories that can be applied to education. In almost all of the cases, they hold a teaching position in universities or colleges, where they do research on early childhood education.

Such influencers publish books or papers to impact early learning. Their social media reach is not comparable to the more traditional active early learning educators who operate businesses, but they do generate good publicity from book releases and presenting at conferences. 


Activism Focus

These influencers are relatively low in number compared to the commercial and knowledge influencers. They dabble in a bit of both where they teach young students currently, but don’t really have websites promoting any products or displaying original research.

But they do hold influence, because they are agents of change. They notice trends in early childhood education and fight for their viewpoints to be heard in the public dialogue about how to best educate early learners. 


Structured Literacy Focus

These influencers can be described as a subcategory of knowledge focused influencers. They too produce new knowledge that can be applied to ECE, but particularly on the topic of evidence-based structured literacy. 

Literacy equity has emerged as a top issue in ECE, thus Sprig is committed to advancing the cause towards achieving literacy for all and promoting those figures who have been the vanguard of the movement. 


Organization Focus

These influencers are leaders of organizations. Both individuals and organizations are powerful when it comes to wielding influence in early learning. While educators, professors and activists can garner a big name by filling a gap that exists for resources, knowledge and change, there are influential organizations that are  led by individuals as well. 

There is another category of influencers, notably those who head current institutions that have made a significant impact on early childhood education in North America.


Key Early Learning Influencers in North America

Key Early Learning Influencers in North America


Resource Focused Influencers


Anya Garcia

Anya is an attorney by training, and the founder of Montessori From the Heart in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. She is an author and an educational coach. 

Contribution: She helps educators and parents use the Montessori path to unlock the early learner’s fullest potential. Her work talks about the value of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation in sparking the learning curiosity of every child.


Caley O’Connor Nunnally

Caley is a speech language pathologist at Aveanna Healthcare in Richmond, Virginia. She is also a part-time therapist providing speech and language services to a local preschool. 

Contribution: She runs Learn With Chatterboxes where she offers tips for play-based learning for enhancing language development. Her work involves educating the parent on how to educate their child, in what is a whole-family approach. 


Deanna Jump

Deanna is a Florida-based, award-winning kindergarten teacher who runs two popular blogs that contain resources and advice for other ECE educators. Namely: Mrs. Jump’s Class and Get Your Teach On.

Contribution: She is an early literacy and reading specialist who was the #1 seller on, a website where educators buy and sell original teaching materials. Her vast archive of learning materials covers creative ideas such as stage play, where items can be set up to explore a thematic lesson. Her resources are also organized into a curriculum making them very easy to use. 


Deborah J. Stewart

Deborah is a preschool teacher and the owner of Teach Preschool Children’s Studio in Noblesville, Indiana. 

Contribution: She connects preschool teachers to resources in her blog Teach Preschool, which is based on the interactions and observations of her students at the Teach Preschool Children’s Studio. She is an advocate of fostering the love of learning in young students by giving them the confidence to try learning for themselves.


Ellen Galinsky

Ellen is an early education consultant, author and the founder and executive director of Mind In the Making.

Contribution: She reviewed more than 2,000 studies and conducted extensive interviews with leading researchers who study children’s development and learning. Her life’s work focuses on identifying critical emerging societal questions, from which she developed a framework of the 7 Essential Life Skills every child needs.


Holly Homer

Holly is an experienced blogger, marketer and speaker from Dallas, Texas. She runs the website and the Facebook page Quirky Momma. 

Contribution: She has many innovative learning resources on her website that cover specific event themes and subjects such as science and history. She recommends activities for children at all stages of their development, from babies to elementary school students and beyond. 


Jackie Currie

Jackie is the owner and founder of Happy Hooligans based out of Ontario, Canada. She writes about her creative daycare ideas that are successful in engaging early learners. 

Contribution: Jackie’s blog is an international resource for kid’s art, craft and play ideas. She is a big believer in creating a strong support network for early childhood carers, who play a very important role just as teachers and parents do. She also runs a Facebook group that provides inspiration and support to ECE professionals. 


Jamie Reimer

Jamie is a blogger and stay at home mom. She runs the website Hands On As We Grow® that teaches parents to do hands-on activities with kids.

Contribution: Activities are sorted by age on Hands On As We Grow® and there is a particular focus on gross and fine-motor skills. Using her experience in teaching her three young boys, she recommends many useful hands-on activities that can be used as learning opportunities. 


Marsha McGuire

Marsha is a kindergarten teacher and author at Differentiated Kindergarten. Differentiated Kindergarten commits to the creation of differentiated classrooms for early learners. 

Contribution: It’s Marsha’s goal to meet the needs of her students through fun and developmentally appropriate activities. She is a big supporter of differentiated instruction for early learners. 


Karen Cox

Karen is the owner at in Albany, Georgia, a blog she founded to share ideas with her fellow PreK educators. 

Contribution: She believes in classroom-tested lessons. Her website has tons of teaching advice for preschool and kindergarten teachers who have a tight budget to pick the right resources. 


Kristin Yann

Kristin is a math-intervention teacher and a literacy coach at Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. She runs the blog School and the City where she shares advice with fellow early education educators. 

Contribution: She is a big proponent of personalized learning. There are great choice boards in the School and the City which are her preferred methods of assessments. She has developed such choice boards that allow students to showcase their unique talents. 


Susan Stacey

Susan is an author, educator and early education consultant based in Halifax, Canada. She wrote the very popular books Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings, and later, Unscripted: Emergent Curriculum in Action.

Contribution: Susan is a proponent of exploring emergency curriculum and inquiry-based practices. She believes that a dynamic curriculum emerges out of collaboration between teachers and students. 


Sheryl Cooper

Sheryl, based out of Portland, Oregon, is an early childhood educator and owner of the website Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds.

Contribution: She lists preschool literacy activities on her website to make learning fun and meaningful for young children. She is a big supporter of play-based learning, which features heavily in her lesson plans for toddlers and preschoolers. 


Knowledge Focused Influencers


Dr. Janet N. Mort

Dr.  Mort is an internationally acclaimed innovative literacy expert, author and former superintendent. Upon retirement, she obtained a PhD in language and literacy and developed her Joyful Literacy Interventions program, which has been successful in improving the reading skills of countless young students and is now available digitally via Sprig Reading.

Contribution: She has facilitated and spoken at educational summits, authored multiple groundbreaking books on literacy interventions, and provided mentorship and professional development to teachers in Canada and internationally.


Dr. John Nimmo

Dr. Nimmo is an associate professor of early childhood education at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. He is an acclaimed scholar and author in this field, having presented his work in several renowned institutions. 

Contribution: His publications include Loris Malaguzzi and the Teachers, Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs and Emergent Curriculum with many distinguished co-authors. He is very passionate about recognizing and mitigating bias in the early years. 


Dr. Marie Battiste

Dr. Battiste is an author and educator, and a member of the Potlotek First Nation in Nova Scotia. She has authored many books such as Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit and received numerous awards for her work in Indigenous education in Canada.

Contribution: Her lifelong work centers on the revitalization of certain Indigenous languages and promoting postcolonial educational approaches that better reflect the cultural diversity of Canada.


Dr. Miriam Beloglovsky

Dr. Beloglovsky is a professor of early childhood education at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California. She is the founder and CEO of Playful Transformation, and co-author of the award-winning Loose Parts Inspiring Play book series.

Contribution: It’s Miriam’s mission to enhance play opportunities for young children and educators. Her work shows how play can be transformational in building a more equitable society.


Dr. Pamela Toulouse

Dr. Toulouse is an education consultant, prolific researcher and former professor of education at Laurentian University, in Sudbury, Ontario. Originally from the Sagamok First Nation, she is an advocate for education equity.

Contribution: She is known for her work on the Indigenous approach to quality learning environments and the role of education in truth and reconciliation in Canada.  She has authored many important papers on inclusive education, assessments, differentiated instruction and Indigenous education in the realm of early learning.


Dr. Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

Dr. Golnikoff is a professor and scientist who leads the Child’s Play, Learning, and Development laboratory at the University of Delaware. Her work at the intersection of education and psychology has garnered many awards from various learning institutions. 

Contribution: She has written papers on language development, the benefits of playful learning, the effects of media on children, and early spatial development. Her primary goal is to raise awareness on the importance of language development for children’s academic, social, and occupational success.  


Activism Focused Influencers


Ann Pelo

Ann is a Seattle-based educator, program consultant, and author whose work focuses on reflective pedagogical practice, ecological teaching and mentoring. 

Contribution: She is the author of several books including the first edition of The Language of Art and co-author of That’s Not Fair: A Teacher’s Guide to Activism with Young Children. She is an advocate of fostering an ecological identity in young learners. 


Tom Hobson

Tom is a preschool teacher, author and blogger in Seattle, Washington, who runs the popular website Teacher Tom’s World. 

Contribution: Tom is a leading proponent of progressive play-based curriculum and supporting public policies that focus on the whole child. He shares his play-based pedagogy through online e-courses.


Structured Literacy Focused Influencers


Dr. Maryanne Wolf

Dr. Wolf is the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at UCLA. She is also the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain”, a seminal work in the field of cognitive neuroscience of reading.

Contribution: She has advocated for systematic, explicit, and evidence-based literacy instruction, particularly for children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. She has emphasized the importance of addressing individual differences in learning.


Dr. David Kilpatrick

Dr. Kilpatrick is the author of “Equipped for Reading Success” and expert in reading assessment and instruction. He has conducted extensive research on reading and dyslexia and is a sought-after speaker on these topics.

Contribution: He has worked on establishing the importance of phonological awareness, phonics, and fluency instruction in his work. He has advocated for a structured literacy approach to reading instruction that is tailored to the needs of individual learners.


Dr. Mark Seidenberg

Dr. Seidenberg is the author of “Language at the Speed of Sight” and an expert in the cognitive science of reading. He is a member of the National Academy of Education and has received numerous awards for his contributions to the field of reading science.

Contribution:He has stressed the need for understanding the cognitive and neural processes underlying reading and language. He has advocated for a structured literacy approach that is grounded in scientific evidence and is appropriate for all learners.


Dr. Susan Neuman

Dr. Neuman is an early literacy expert and Professor of Childhood and Literacy Education at NYU. She has served as a consultant to Sesame Street and has written over 100 articles and authored or co-authored 15 books on early literacy.

Contribution: She has worked to improve literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children and has emphasized the importance of explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension. She has also championed the use of authentic literature to engage children in reading.


Dr. Linda Siegel 

Dr. Siegel is the author of “Understanding Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities” and an expert in reading and language disabilities. She has received numerous awards for her research on reading and language disabilities and has served as an expert witness in legal cases involving dyslexia.

Contribution: She has conducted extensive research on dyslexia and reading disabilities and has emphasized the need for structured literacy instruction that addresses the specific needs of struggling readers. She has also advocated for early identification and intervention.


Dr. Sally Shaywitz

Dr. Shaywitz is a co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and author of “Overcoming Dyslexia”. She is a neurologist and has conducted extensive research on the neural basis of reading, which has led to significant advances in understanding and treating dyslexia.

Contribution: She has been a leading advocate for early identification and evidence-based intervention for children with dyslexia, and has emphasized the importance of structured literacy instruction that is tailored to the needs of individual learners. She has also supported the building of self-esteem and motivation in the quest towards literacy. 


Dr. Reid Lyon

Dr. Reid Lyon is the former Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and expert in reading development and disabilities. He has served as an advisor to multiple U.S. Presidents and has played a key role in shaping national policies on reading instruction and research.

Contribution: He has conducted extensive research on reading development and disabilities, and has been a strong advocate for evidence-based literacy instruction that is tailored to the needs of individual learners. He has also stressed the importance of building oral language skills.


Dr. Susan Hall

Dr. Hall is the Co-founder of the 95 Percent Group Inc. and expert in literacy instruction. She has developed numerous evidence-based literacy programs and materials that are widely used in schools across the country.

Contribution: She has developed evidence-based instructional materials and strategies for teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and comprehension, and has been a strong advocate for structured literacy instruction. She has also spoken on the importance of addressing students’ emotional needs.


Dr. Timothy Shanahan

Dr. Shanahan is the Former Director of Reading for the Chicago Public Schools and expert in literacy instruction and policy. He has written over 200 publications on literacy instruction and policy, and is a recipient of the William S. Gray Citation of Merit from the International Literacy Association.

Contribution: He has put a spotlight on the importance of evidence-based instruction and has advocated for a balanced approach to literacy instruction that includes phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. He has also worked to bridge the gap between research and practice.


Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert 

Dr. Hiebert is the Founder of TextProject Inc. and expert in vocabulary and reading comprehension. She has developed several widely-used measures of reading ability and is a leading expert on the role of vocabulary in reading comprehension.

Contribution: She has developed research-based instructional materials and strategies for vocabulary and comprehension instruction, and has emphasized the importance of a structured literacy approach to reading instruction that is appropriate for all learners. She has also advocated for building background knowledge.


Organization Focused Influencers


Ron Spreeuwenberg

An engineer by trade, Ron is the founder of HiMama in Toronto, Ontario. HiMama is a childcare app that helps childcare programs and parents share and record important childcare activities.

Contribution: He loves designing and creating new businesses that have a positive social impact. He also hosts The Preschool Podcast, where he interviews early childhood education experts to bring more light to the industry. 


Brenda Potter

Brenda is the Director of the Center of Early Learning Professionals at Warwick, Rhode Island. The Center is operated by Education Development Center (EDC), a global nonprofit organization. EDC is known for supporting the work of early childhood professionals in the US.

Contribution: Brenda is an expert on early education and childhood development. She and her team have supported thousands of administrators and educators to create preK-Grade 3 systems and improve early science, mathematics, and literacy learning. 


Diana Rauner

Dr. Rauner is the president of Start Early, a public-private partnership for the advancement of quality early learning and care for families with children in their early formative years. It is the parent organization of the First Five Years Fund, an advocacy group that aims to be a harbinger of equity in education for all children from birth through age five.

Contribution: Dr. Rauner leads efforts to develop center-based and home-based programs and services for children and families, provide professional development tools to scale best practices within the field, and innovate new solutions for continuous quality improvement.


Don Giesbrecht

Don is the CEO of the Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF), which is a community of professionals and practitioners in early learning advocating for affordable, accessible, high-quality child care and education for all Canadian children. 

Contribution: Don is motivated by the need for advocacy for the importance of quality early learning and child care (ELCC) to Canada’s federal government. He is a big believer in influencing positive systemic change. The CCCF develops models, standards and guidelines for quality ELCC, professional development and organizational design.


Judy Braus

Judy is the executive director at the Natural Start Alliance, which promotes hands-on experiences in early education that connects young learners with nature and the local environment. 

Contribution: Judy has led Natural Start Alliance’s efforts in building a foundation for lifelong environmental literacy. She has been a strong advocate of using school grounds for outdoor classroom spaces during the pandemic. She has always promoted the expertise of environmental educators in teaching young students.


Linda Darling-Hammond

Dr. Darling-Hammond is the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University. The Learning Policy Institute conducts high quality independent research seeking to improve education policy and practice.

Contribution: Her work focuses on achieving equitable and empowering education for all children through a focus on meaningful learning, educator quality, and sufficient resources. On early childhood education, the Learning Policy Institute recommends actions to ensure that all children have access to the early learning experiences they need to succeed.


Mike DeGagne

Mike is the president and CEO of Indspire, Canada’s largest Indigenous charity, supporting Indigenous students, education, and excellence.

Contribution: Mike’s lifelong work is in Indigenous health and education. His objective is to ensure that every Indigenous student graduates school within a generation. He uses his federal program management experience to spearhead Indispire’s mission to educate, connect, and invest in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students so they will achieve their highest potential.


Rebecca Moskowitz

Rebecca is the Executive Director of Advancement of Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). The principles of Waldorf education address the needs of the growing child, what can be best described as holistic learning

Contribution: Rebecca represents Waldorf education to the broader community. An educator herself for over two decades, she has great insights regarding diversity and inclusion. Waldorf students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities to be of service to the world. 


Rhian Evans Allvin

Rhian is the CEO of National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age eight, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. 

Contribution: Under Rhian’s leadership, NAEYC has streamlined the early childhood program accreditation system and developed a unifying framework to create an aligned professional field of practice for early childhood educators. She will leave a strong legacy behind, as she announced her planned departure earlier this year. 


Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson

Dr. Wilson is president & CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which has a mission of ensuring every child a healthy, safe, and fair start to life as they transition to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. 

Contribution: Dr. Wilson brings his progressive experience and transformational leadership in social sector missions for uplifting the community to the CDF. The CDF works to ensure the rights of all children, so they receive the proper education they need and are not neglected by the system. 


Yasmina Vinci

Yasmina is the executive director of the National Head Start Association(NHSA). NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 275,000 staff members, and 1,600 grant recipients in the US. Its mission is to ensure that every child has access to high-quality early education despite their situation. 

Contribution: Yasmina has a great deal of experience in both executive and policy roles and has impacted early childhood education at the national, state and local levels as a consultant and an advisor. She has defended the values of the Head Start program and early education in general, on multiple interviews such as this one. 

Steven Barnett

Dr. Barnett is the founder and co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. The NIEER provides nonpartisan independent research-based analysis and technical assistance to inform and support policy on high-quality education for early learners.

Contribution: NIEER encourages policies and practices promoting the physical, cognitive and social-emotional development of children. Apart from leading NIEER, Dr. Barnett has authored over 200 publications on topics such as the economics of early care and education and the long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s learning and development.


Key Learnings & Continuation of Series

Key Learnings and Continuation of Series

Studying the teaching expertise, philosophies and research areas of active early learning educators, professors and scientists alike, there are some recurring subjects.

  • Play-based learning.
  • Activity-based learning.
  • Learning that is focused on the community.
  • Learning that is focused on scholarly evidence.
  • Supporting educators with resources that help instill skills and concepts.


Sprig’s holistic approach supports evidence-based learning practices that can be done in the classroom, in one’s home and in the greater community. To learn more about the type of resources that are available for such holistic programs, visit our Sprig Store.

The research from these leading early learning key figures and organizations point to the need for inclusive education that focuses not only on academic development, but other types of development as well, such as physical, emotional, and even spiritual. 

It further supports attaining such growth by focusing more on teaching the basic aspects of core subjects, that is, creating a solid foundation. 

This series on key figures of early childhood education is by no means exhaustive. There are many other key individuals Sprig hopes to capture in a future update, or by publishing a part two of the blog. 

Stay tuned and thank you for your interest in improving high-quality early childhood education.