Company Updates

Early Childhood Educators Need More Support to Teach Literacy. We’re Listening.

Read Time: 4 minutes
Nicol Russell, Ed.D.
Vice President, Implementation Research, Teaching Strategies
May 15, 2024

As a young child, I’d help my dad comb through coupons in the Sunday newspaper each week. With his guidance, I’d find familiar pictures and letters and piece them together to recognize words, connecting the text with meaningful ideas and objects from my life before I could even read. I didn’t know it then, of course, but this weekly activity not only created fond memories with my father but built a foundation of important pre-reading skills that would support my journey to literacy.

Traditionally, learning to read has been viewed as a skill nearly all children attain in the early elementary grades, but today, just one in three fourth graders is reading on grade level (The Nation’s Report Card 2022, NAEP). At Teaching Strategies, we have always known how important it is to begin building literacy skills in early childhood, particularly in the critical year before kindergarten. We believe in teaching young children to become competent, confident, emerging readers through evidence-based pedagogy aligned to the science of reading.

That’s why literacy was a key theme in a recent survey we conducted to capture insights and perspectives regarding early childhood education across the U.S. In this survey, the second of its kind, we sought to understand early childhood educators’ familiarity with the science of reading and how we can better support teachers as they help children develop early literacy skills.

We learned 39% of early childhood educators are “not familiar at all” with the science of reading, and just 28% of early childhood educators said they feel “very prepared” to teach early literacy.

Asked what could help them feel better prepared, 34% requested more educator materials and guides, 29% desired more reading-specific lessons and curricula, 29% cited a need for more time dedicated to literacy lesson planning, and 35% believed smaller class sizes would be beneficial. In addition, an overwhelming majority of respondents (91%) underscored the importance of parent/caregiver engagement for developing early literacy skills in young children.

But early childhood educators need our support beyond literacy instruction itself. In this year’s survey, we learned that an increasing number of early childhood educators are considering leaving the profession within the next five years (19% in 2022 vs. 26% in 2024). The top factors driving teachers to consider a possible career change are mental health challenges (61% in 2024, compared to 41% in 2022), compensation and benefits (57% in 2024, compared to 47% in 2022), and working conditions (57% in 2024, compared to 40% in 2022). Only 43% of educators surveyed felt well compensated, and only 52% believe they receive adequate benefits.

One way to help address this challenge is by offering high-quality, meaningful professional development opportunities, which we know can help boost job satisfaction. Nearly 58% of educators were interested in continuing education, with a preference for online, self-paced courses and shorter, credential-bearing modules. The preference for online courses that educators can take at their own pace increased notably from 38% in 2022 to 61% in 2024.

These survey results clearly spell out what we need to do to bridge gaps and support and elevate these critical educators. Teaching Strategies is listening to this feedback, and we are committed to developing research-backed solutions, such as The Creative Curriculum for Pre-K and the Professional Development (PD) Teacher Membership, to meet the evolving needs of our early childhood educators and, in turn, the needs of young learners and their families.

The Creative Curriculum for Pre-K, a first-of-its-kind, research-based curriculum that combines explicit literacy and math instruction with hands-on, play-based, investigative studies, supports children to build the fundamental skills and experiences that will set them up for long-term academic success. The curriculum also offers educators digital lesson planning tools, enabling teachers to plan a full year of lessons and share classroom resources directly with families in a few clicks. Embedded professional learning, including hundreds of short, topical videos, offer educators just-in-time guidance on how to effectively deliver language and literacy activities, as well as activities supporting growth across all areas of development.

Moreover, Teaching Strategies’ PD Teacher Membership continues to grow. PD Teacher Membership provides 24/7 unlimited access to a catalog of online IACET-accredited courses with over 400 hours of research-based content, including both live and on-demand virtual classes, and an 8-week rapid onboarding bootcamp for new teachers, plus enhanced access to our online professional learning community, The Hub, with over 120,000 members. The platform was recently named a finalist for a 2024 CODiE Award in the “Best Education Professional Development Solution” category.

Hear more from the early child educator community.

Download the Full Survey Results