Children’s development of strong early foundations in literacy begins in the home. They are grown and enriched through participation in high quality early childhood education. It is a key priority for Government that every child achieves literacy and numeracy levels that enable their success. In New Zealand, children in early childhood services are exposed to a multitude of resources and experiences that engage and support their literacy learning.

ERO evaluated literacy teaching and learning in early childhood services in Term 4, 2009 and Term 1, 2010. The evaluation considered:

  • how services valued and promoted literacy learning
  • what literacy teaching and learning was occurring in early childhood services
  • how services knew literacy teaching practices had improved outcomes for children.

ERO’s evaluation of literacy teaching and learning in early childhood services highlighted the wide variety of understanding of early literacy and accompanying practice across the sector. High quality literacy practices were evident in services where educators had in-depth knowledge of how children’s literacy learning developed. However, in services where ERO observed few or poor quality literacy practices, children were not well engaged with literacy learning.

The intent of the evaluation was to gain an insight and understanding of literacy teaching and learning in early childhood education. This report complements the ERO national evaluation report, Literacy in Early Childhood: Teaching and Learning, February 2011. 1 It presents examples of good practice from 13 early childhood services, identified during their ERO reviews, which had high quality literacy teaching and learning. ERO revisited these services in Term 4, 2010. These services were at different stages in their understanding and associated literacy teaching and learning practices.

The information is divided into two parts. The first six examples describe all three aspects of the evaluation: promotion, practice, and self review of literacy teaching and learning. The second presents examples from the remaining services that exemplified good practice in some aspects of literacy teaching and learning. The examples also include ideas that could be used by other services.

Literacy in early childhood

New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki,  2 promotes a socio-cultural perspective, which informs literacy practices in early childhood services.

While Te Whāriki does not specifically advise educators how to promote or teach early literacy, Strand 4, Communication-Mana Reo, does state that the languages and symbols of children’s own and other cultures are promoted and protected in ways that seek to empower children to become literate through activities that are meaningful and engaging. It encourages an holistic view of literacy where infants, toddlers and young children engage with literacy in ways that reflect their growing expertise, and that incorporates their home literacy practices.