Early Literacy Leadership

Reimagining how educators lay the foundation for developing strong readers

Teaching a child to read is both complex and doable.

Teachers and leaders work tirelessly to ensure that students become proficient readers because they know how important literacy is to leading a fulfilling life. Yet despite the fact that we understand more about the way children learn to read than ever before, only 34% of U.S. 4th graders are reading on grade level. 

In early 2020, we set out to identify the most critical elements of high-quality, effective early literacy systems. We combed through research, field-tested hypotheses, and codified recommendations based on what they learned from working with school system partners. 

What we discovered is that even though common barriers like ineffective materials, misaligned interventions, and inadequate teacher support play out in classrooms, the solution actually lies at the school and district level.

Five essential practices for building an effective early literacy system

Rooted in a systematic and explicit foundational skills program as well as content-rich knowledge building

Field-tested in schools and systems across the country

Responsive to learning challenges resulting from unprecedented disruptions in schooling


Resources for observing, coaching, and reflecting on the current state of K–2 literacy instruction

This document is designed to support leaders in reflecting on how the essential practices are currently implemented in their systems and to measure their growth over time. This tool can also be used to collect artifacts aligned to each indicator to inform key action planning and next steps across the system.

Take me there

This tool outlines a set of indicators describing the instructional content, teacher actions, and student engagement indicative of excellent teaching and learning of reading foundational skills.

Take me there

Aligned with the Foundational Skills Classroom Observation Tool indicators, this guide contains coaching look-fors and guiding questions to support coaches as they observe classroom instruction, identify trends, and prepare for next steps in coaching and training.

Take me there

This template can be used as a note catcher for coaches as they observe classroom instruction, identify trends, and prepare for next steps in coaching and training

Take me there

This blog post and video walk through how to support unfinished learning in foundational reading skills.

Take me there

Responding to the needs of multilingual learners in K–2 literacy instruction

While the essential practices are effective at setting the conditions for improving early literacy outcomes for learners at the systemic level, there are still instructional practices that need to be in place to ensure multilingual students receive the individual supports they need to reach reading proficiency. 


Explore resources for supporting multilingual readers

Developing young readers in Haywood County Schools, TN

A rural school district reimagined their approach to reading intervention and implemented the five essential practices to their literacy program.

Learn more

What’s next

Our goal is to provide leaders with a practical, user-friendly playbook strategically designed to help schools cross the finish line in building an effective early literacy system. 

We know that there’s still a lot more to learn about what it takes to build and scale effective early literacy systems, and we’re committed to sharing what we learn, as we learn it.

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