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October 20, 2014

Read, play, learn: Meeting the needs of our youngest readers

“I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every letter.”

— Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Like Charles Dickens’ Pip from Great Expectations, many of us may recall our earliest experiences with reading as confusing and challenging. Yet, as fluent readers, it is all too easy to forget what illiteracy can feel like.

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, students who enter elementary school without basic literacy skills are up to four times more likely to drop out of school in later years, significantly impacting their earning potential and ability to thrive in a text-based world.

One-on-one support helps our youngest readers build the rudimentary skills they need to succeed in reading, even as they’re just learning their ABCs. This year, Reading Partners Emerging Readers curriculum will be expanding to serve even more emerging readers across the San Francisco Bay Area and the U.S. — helping students build a strong foundation for reading, before they have the opportunity to fall behind.

How does the Emerging Readers curriculum work?…

The curriculum provides volunteer tutors the structure they need to help their students master fundamental reading skills a learn to read. Not to mention, it’s designed to be fun and engaging for tutors and students alike.


Maria* and her tutor Laura* (left) during an Emerging Readers tutoring session. In this variation of “Leapfrog,” Maria makes the frog hop on the lilypad one time for each sound she hears in the word. “B-ow” equals two hops.

The Emerging Readers curriculum introduces students to the basics of reading, including, learning to recognize the letters and sounds of the alphabet, understanding the building blocks of language (sentences, words, syllables), and interacting with print text.

Furthermore, the Emerging Readers program is tailored to meet students’ developmental need (and desire) for play. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “linking literacy and play is one of the most effective ways to make literacy activities meaningful and enjoyable for children.”1

*Names have been changed to comply with FERPA protections.
1 National Association for the Education of Young Children. “The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction” (2003). Retrieved from


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