January 8, 2009
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On the National Early Literacy Panel's Final Findings
The National Early Literacy Panel, which convened in 2002, today issued its final report. Its findings show that young children's exposure to and mastery of several emergent literacy skills, such as knowing the alphabet, understanding how books work, and awareness of the sounds in words, are strong to moderate predictors of their later reading skills.
WASHINGTON–The National Early Literacy Panel's finding reinforces what the AFT has been advocating-that all children must have access to a high-quality early childhood education that focuses on phonological awareness and exposes them to stories, books and rich language in order to develop strong reading skills, an essential component to student achievement.
Through programs such as Reading Rockets, www.readingrockets.org, the AFT has long been committed to assisting parents and early childhood providers to build these necessary pre-literacy skills in young children. We also helped develop Colorín Colorado, www.colorincolorado.org, a nationwide initiative providing a wide array of free resources for young English language learners, their parents and their teachers. Recognizing that early childhood education and elementary education must be better aligned, we partnered with the National Center for Learning Disabilities to create and distribute the Transitioning to Kindergarten toolkit for educators and parents.
These programs are a great start, but much more must be done at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that parents have access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education, and that all early childhood educators receive the best training and professional development to help all children gain the skills they need to begin school ready to learn.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.