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17 Apr 2014

Getting Reading Right From the Start: Effective Early Literacy Interventions

Elfrieda H. Hiebert & Barbara M. Taylor


Hiebert, E.H., & Taylor, B.M., (2014). Getting Reading Right From the Start: Effective early literacy interventions. (reprint of 1994 edition). Santa Cruz: TextProject, Inc.


In many places, the days are past when children marked Xs and Os on geometric shapes and matched strings of randomly assorted letters in the name of reading readiness. The last several decades have seen an emergent literacy perspective come into prominence. While many have agreed that an emergent literacy approach was particularly needed with children who have often been failed by conventional approaches, it has only been in the last several years that descriptions have become available of applications of an emergent literacy approach in contexts where a majority of children have had few prior literacy experiences.

As we participated in a growing network of collaborative teams of school- and university-based educators who were working on such implementation projects, we found that we were grappling with similar issues despite disparate contexts. Sometimes, these issues related to instructional methodology like the size of groups in which initially low-performing children could most profitably learn. Other persistent issues of policy and teacher development arose as well. For example, colleagues frequently talked about the need for school wide implementation and forms of home-school liaisons. At the same time, a theme ran through the stories of colleagues around the country--children were learning to read and write, and their teachers were enthusiastic about children's accomplishments.

The questions and success stories that were raised in such conversations, we believed, should be shared with a larger constituency. Symposia were organized at two conferences-National Reading Conference (1991) and American Educational Research Association (1992)-so that reports could be shared with the larger educational community. Descriptions had so many common themes and the underlying issues were so pressing that it became clear that these reports should be available to a much wider audience-hence, this volume.   

Our hope in sharing the reports of these various projects is that these stories of success will be repeated in many, many more classrooms. Initiation of the activities that cut across these projects-identification of clearcut goals and expectations, instructional activities that involve children in reading and writing, authentic assessment practices, and liaisons within schools and between schools and home communities-can be expected to have high payoffs. At the same time, educators should enter these projects with their eyes wide open-and the reports in this volume describe some of the issues with which teams of educators need to grapple. The reports within this volume illustrate solutions and the processes whereby solutions can be achieved.