Language and Literacy Resources for Early Childhood Educators

Tōku reo, tōku ohooho, tōku reo, tōku māpihi maurea, tōku reo, tōku whakakai marihi. My language is my awakening, my language is my treasure, my language is my prized possession. 

Language and literacy are crucial for future learning. Through their practices, early childhood educators can significantly impact children’s language and literacy development and support their progress towards the Communication | Mana Reo strand of Te Whāriki.  

Essential Resources supplies language and literacy resources for early years learning. Prime Time Communication and Language uses an active approach to create competent and confident communicators. The Story Play series provides a treasure trove of activities for storytelling in early childhood. 


What is the importance of literacy in early childhood?  

Literacy in early childhood is important because it provides a “launching pad” for later literacy and learning in general.  

For example, early reading helps children recognise more words and better comprehend their learning, which expands their vocabulary and general knowledge.  

Confident readers also have a more confident approach to their education. 

Early literacy supports later academic success because it embeds effective literacy strategies. These are essential skills for gathering and understanding new information – and are needed for independent learning. 

On the other hand, children who start school with less literacy experience relative to their peers are more likely to struggle to learn. This creates what is known as the Matthew effect, where the “educationally rich get richer and the educationally poor get poorer.” 

Language experiences (like talking, singing and reading) in early childhood form powerful brain connections for language, thinking and understanding. These brain connections help with problem-solving, creativity and communication. 

How can I support language development in an early childhood setting?  

Interactions are critical to supporting children’s language development in early childhood settings, as it says in Prime Time Communication and Language

“How we, as practitioners, communicate and use language is therefore key to how all children learn and develop in all areas, including communication and language.” 

The Essential Resources language resource outlines the principles for promoting language skills through everyday interactions in the early years. One is that children hear many words frequently – and in different contexts. 

For example, hearing “orange cone” and “eating an orange.” 

A systematic review of Australasian literature summarised practices for oral language development: 

  • Create rich oral language environments, which expose children to complex and varied language and provide opportunities for expression and exploration (e.g., gestures, facial expressions and words). 
  • Ask questions that prompt children to talk and contribute to the conversation. Open-ended questions that get children critiquing, predicting and investigating, like ‘I wonder…’ questions, are most effective. 
  • Keep conversations going through intentional pauses, active listening and paraphrasing.  
  • Make conversations personal by drawing upon children’s own experiences, ideas and interests. 

What resources will help me with encouraging writing in the early years?  

Some of our resources that will help with encouraging writing in the early years are: 

Foundations of Early Literacy by Bridie Raban, Sue Palmer and Ros Bayley 

This literacy resource for the early years provides “advice about the foundations of early literacy that is easily accessible, based on best practice, and – above all – fun.” 

One section, “Moving into writing”, supplies practical strategies and activities to support early writing. For example, facilitating ‘literate’ role-play through writing to-do lists and shopping lists. 

Child-Initiated Early Writing by Lynn Clere and Bridie Raban 

The resource aims to make learning to write in the early years fun and productive. It helps early childhood educators set up resources so children need minimal support for their mark-making and writing. 

Child-Initiated Early Writing also uses case studies to illustrate how a holistic approach to writing supports learning in other areas.