Many children enter school without adequate foundations in vocabulary, ability to attune to the sounds of language, knowledge of the alphabet, and the world of print. Research shows these are critical precursors to reading proficiency. These foundational skills may be particularly lacking in children from low-income families and those who are English Language Learners.
Early Reading First (ERF) is a project of the U.S. Department of Education, which provides funding to transform existing early childhood education programs that work with children at-risk for school failure into preschool centers of educational excellence. The mission of ERF is to “ensure that all children enter kindergarten with the necessary language, cognitive, and early reading skills for continued success in school.”
Under the leadership of Project Director Sue Reed, the Cutler Institute staff collaborate with Androscoggin Head Start, Catholic Charities St. Louis Child Development Center, People’s Regional Opportunity Program Head Start, and three local educational agencies (LEAs) to implement the research-based curriculum, Opening the World of Learning (OWL), in order to support significant and sustainable change in curriculum, instruction, classroom environment, parental involvement, professional development and child and program level assessment required to meet the proposed goals. Children's vocabulary and literacy skills are measured by an external evaluator both pre- and post- intervention of a research-based early language and literacy curriculum in 14 preschool classrooms. Both quantitative and qualitative data show that the program has made a significant impact on children's school readiness skills and preschool teachers' abilities to change their instructional strategies and practices to impact these skills.