ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Early Childhood Alert No. 13, 2018 (with a focus on literacy in the curriculum)

It's been a while since we've had a focus on literacy in early childhood education. So at ChildForum we will change that. 

We all know the years before formal schooling are important for developing a love of books, words, early writing and language. There is scope to be doing more for children by strengthening the emphasis on sound literacy teaching practices and programmes, and growing our knowledge of research in this area.

Here are articles that we've published and links to others that are must reads. And if you can't access these, check with us that your login is current or JOIN US here. This newsletter may be kept for future reference and to use if perhaps you or someone you know is doing a self-review or action-based research around literacy.

First though if you missed last week's newsletter on ECE Staffing matters it's not too late to read it - click here.

And there are a couple of quick notices to share with you:

Call for research papers - NZ International Research in ECE Journal

Manuscripts are now being invited to be submitted for consideration for publication in the next general issue of the New Zealand International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Submissions must be received before or by 5 September 2018.  

The journal publishes research results, critiques, methodological papers and theoretical articles relating to children’s education, wellbeing and care in the early years (from conception and up to eight years of age).Research relating to teaching and learning, pedagogical approaches, early intervention, parenting, child health, child safety, child development, and teacher/parent education are particularly welcome. Papers examining a research method, an aspect of methodology, or contributing to the development of theory are also invited.  Go to more information here and submit your paper

HIV - AIDS: Reminder of important guidelines for ECE employers, educators and teachers

You may have heard in the news over the past week about an early childhood teacher who is HIV positive and has been fired due to work performance issues claimed by her employer. The employer is alleged to have produced a letter to inform parents of her health status, along with its child illness policy and sent teachers out to children's homes with some door-knocked as late as 8pm at night. 

It is important to remind everyone of the Early Childhood Care and Education HIV and AIDS Guidelines. The guidelines include: defining HIV and AIDS and understanding these conditions, disclosure and confidentiality requirements, can you exclude a child who is HIV-positive, dealing with fear and ignorance, ensuring a safe environment for all children. In regard to employer obligations, it is illegal in NZ to discriminate based on HIV status under the Human Rights Act. Early childhood education staff are not legally required to disclose their HIV status to their employer. If they do disclose the employer has to take all reasonable steps to protect the staff member from harassment at work.

Education Conversation and another consultation survey

If you've been involved and contributed to the Ministry of Education's education conversation and Have your Say survey and thought that was it - it is not.  The Ministry has started another survey. A ministry spokesperson said: "The survey is aimed at parents, families and whānau, teachers, early learning (sic early childhood education) providers and the wider community. We want to hear from a wide range of people about what they think is working well already, and what could be changed to improve early learning for all New Zealand children, from birth to 5 years old."  Read more and go to the survey here. 



  1. Defining literacy
  2. Research: NZ early childhood teachers' practices and beliefs and the influence of socio-economic status on practices 
  3. Resarch: Literacy for children birth to 2 years
  4. Research: The Montessori approach to the development of literacy skills in ECE 
  5. A quick checklist to tell if a service is promoting literacy
  6. Education Review Office report
  7. Four-year olds who can read at advanced levels
  8. Helping a child develop early reading skills
  9. The tuakana–teina relationship
  10. Materials and kit for Parent Workshops on 'Early Reading Together' 
  11. Research: Books children prefer
  12. A book on literacy teaching ideas 
  13. Give the surprise of beautiful picture books as a mid-winter Christmas present
  14. Taking children for a trip to your local library


1. Defining literacy

In early childhood education literacy is so much more than reading and writing, it is also about social participation and communication. Oral language experiences (e.g. encouraging children to express their views, to share thinking, engaging in word play and rhyming and being exposed to new words and concepts) are important to early literacy development. Literacy within early childhood education generally emphasises oral language, reading, alphabet knowledge and letter sounds and shapes, print awareness, mark making or early writing and digital literacies.

> Go to the glossary of ECE terms and jargon for more 


2. NZ early childhood teachers' practices and beliefs and the influence of socio-economic status on practices

There is limited research on the practices that New Zealand early childhood teachers use to facilitate the development of emergent literacy skills. The present study investigated beliefs about literacy and what practices teachers used in encouraging emergent literacy.  It also looked at what influence socioeconomic levels may have on literacy practices in ECE. 

> Go to the paper we've published in the latest 2018 issue of the NZ-International Research in ECE Journal by Amber Dampney, Jayne Newbury and Megan McAuliffe


3.  Literacy for children birth to 2 years

This is a brand new study that gives insight into how educators and parents understand literacy and their different approaches to literacy for infants and toddlers. It also looks at barriers to promoting literacy for this age group and identifies implications for improving practices. 

>  Learn more by reading the article published in the latest 2018 issue of our NZ-International Research in ECE Journal by Laura McFarland, Noella Mackenzie and Natalie Thompson


4. The Montessori approach to the development of literacy skills in ECE 

The New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki is non-prescriptive in terms of literacy and allows for educators to develop their own literacy programmes with varying levels of emphasis on pre-literacy skills. This article describes research into the pre-literacy skills and knowledge of children attending two Montessori centres where the Head Teachers are Montessori trained and the centres use traditional Montessori resources and materials to develop literacy.  It looks at the efficacy of a Montessori approach to the development of literacy skills in four year olds in the context of current research around pre-literacy skills development in early childhood education.

> Go to this article on embedding literacy in the programme by Sheilpa Patel in the Research in ECE Journal


5. A quick checklist to tell if a service is promoting literacy

If you don't have time to get into the research literature to learn what to look for and what is important, ChildForum has prepared the following short list of 5 indicators - a rough guide - to signs of good literacy teaching and learning practices.  

In the early childhood education setting do you see:

  1. Picture books and extensions of literature are valued e.g. puppets, learning games based on stories, dramatic play props, recipes?
  2. Educators setting aside time to read each day to, and with, children?
  3. Educators showing pleasure and personal interest in children’s oral language and early writing efforts?
  4. Educators following children’s interests and abilities in providing for literacy learning?
  5. Educators noticing and evaluating how your child is progressing and talking with you about the next steps for supporting literacy development? (Source, 2011) 


6. Education Review Office report

A report by the Education Review Office in 2011 on 350 childcare centres, kindergartens and playcentres and 3 home-based networks, did not paint a good picture of literacy teaching and learning in these services. 

Key areas that ERO believed services could be doing better on were: 

  • the valuing and promotion of literacy, including not just buying books and resources on an ad-hoc basis (having a literacy policy is an important first step);
  • catering for children with different needs and abilities in literacy;
  • promoting literacy for boys and girls;
  • promoting literacy for children from different ethnic groups; and,
  • going beyond simply providing activities, to also being concerned with literacy outcomes - what children are learning, noticing how children's learning is progressing, reviewing how to better support children, and incorporating children's and parents perspectives.  

Following the release of ERO's report, Dr Alexander put together ideas and information that services did not have and that would help them to uplift their practices

Go to this guidance, practical advice and information resource


7. Four-year-olds who can read at advanced levels

The four-year-old children in this study were not stressed, pressured or formally taught to read, yet had reading accuracy ages up to 10 years 8 months, comprehension ages up to 7 years 5 months, and fluency rates up to 13 years. If young children are able to acquire early and advanced knowledge without this being induced by adults, then they should not be considered as hot-housed.

Instead, children’s individual motivation, skills and abilities should be acknowledged and responded to; and the support that responsive parents give to their children should be valued and respected.

Learn more in our research article by Valerie Margrain on young precocious readers


8. Helping a child develop early reading skills

By playing and having fun, parents can cover all the pre-reading skills their children need for a successful start to reading and writing when they go to school. There is no need for any formal teaching at the pre-school level.

Parents need to know what and how to help their children with learning pre-reading skills. But, where do they go to find out?  

They can go to their child's early childhood teacher for guidance. 

If early childhood teachers don't know what to say and what to do to help and if parents don't have guidance then they tend to teach their children what they think they can remember doing when they started to read.

> Learn more now by going to a lovely article here that we've published by Barbara Morris


9. The tuakana–teina relationship

Within Aotearoa, New Zealand early childhood education pedagogy, the relationships of tuakana, teina can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and/or misused.

By reading this awesome article by Ngaroma Williams you will grow your understanding and be better informed


10. Materials and kit for Parent Workshops on 'Early Reading Together' 

Early Reading Together® is a workshop-based programme available to early childhood centres and home-based ECE services which helps parents and whānau of young children support their children's language and literacy development. It is: 

  • A programme comprising 3 workshops over 3 weeks (each workshop lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes)
  • Specifically designed to support children and parents from diverse language/literacy, cultural, educational and socio-economic backgrounds
  • Practical, user friendly, enjoyable and manageable
  • Effective when it is implemented as described in the fully-scripted Workshop Leader's Handbook
  • Based on a sound theoretical and research framework.

It helps parents to:

  • Understand more fully the ways in which talking with young children and reading to them (from the time they are babies) helps the child's language and literacy development
  • Explore additional ways of supporting children's language and reading development when they are reading stories and rhymes, and singing songs together
  • Find out more about books, rhymes and songs which are suitable for young children and enjoyable for them
  • Borrow books and other resources from libraries, and access support from librarians.

>  Find out more and order your ERT Kit


11. Books children prefer

Usually books are chosen for children rather than letting children choose for themselves, particularly when the children are infants and toddlers. This article reports on a study on what very young children like in books and what they prefer.  It's very interesting and the results may surprise you!

> Read more about children's choices 


12. A book on literacy teaching ideas

'Ideas for Play: Literacy' is a NZ book written for families at home, parent educators, and early childhood teachers. It is written by Emma Smoldon and Megan Howell.

> Go to a review of this book to learn more about it


13. Give the surprise of beautiful picture books as a mid-winter Christmas present

Take a look at the range of books on offer at the Children's Books NZ website. These are beautiful, educational, and global books! The books are carefully selected to reflect the world's diversity, encourage children's independent spirits, and build enthusiasm for reading, creativity and discovery. A discount of 15% is available if you use the special ChildForum code when purchasing.  

> Read more about the books and get the special discount code to use


14. Taking children for a trip to your local library

Going to the library is a great activity to do either on your own with a child or small group of children, or as a group visit with your early childhood service.

The most obvious thing you can do at the library is check out books, but most libraries offer magazines, DVDs, CDs and sometimes even puzzles or games for loan. Letters are everywhere at the library, so make the most of opportunities for learning the alphabet or words for older children. In the fiction section point out letters that mark different places on the shelves and in the non-fiction section look for common words like pets or food on the shelving signs.

Go to this article for many more different ideas and great tips on how to make the most out of a library trip 


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