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New Childcare Center Pilot Focused on Reading Shows Positive Changes in Student Learning

Children in participating early literacy study saw more gains in development; educators noted improvement in their teaching practices
Thursday, August 23, 2018 | 10:19am

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen today released the results from the first year of a new pilot to improve the quality of teaching and learning in early childhood programs. Results from the pilot, called Early Literacy Matters, showed students generally increased in their reading comprehension and literacy abilities, and students whose teachers received additional coaching saw added growth in areas like teacher-student engagement and age-appropriate reading skills.

Over the 2017-18 school year, about 7,000 students in more than 700 classrooms across the state were part of the Early Literacy Matters pilot. The pilot focused on daycare schools and childcare centers approved or licensed by the Tennessee Department of Education or Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS), who collaborated closely on this work. These programs serve children ages six weeks to four years old. To participate, teachers completed a variety of trainings and submitted student assignments, and some educators were selected for additional coaching, site visits, and assignment feedback. All who participated received class sets of a variety of high-quality books from the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.

Overall, at the end of the year, participants noted that there had been meaningful improvements in their literacy practices, classrooms became more literacy-focused, and students scored better on a post-pilot age-appropriate exam that measures their early literacy skills, like comprehension and phonetics. In classrooms where educators received further coaching and feedback, teachers were more likely to read aloud to children, explicitly teach the meaning of a word or phrase, listen to children tell stories or anecdotes, ask open-ended questions, see better engagement among teachers and children, and have a rich amount of student writing that went beyond basic handwriting lessons.

“Literacy is a foundational issue for children’s development, and we know when children become readers, they become lifelong learners,” Commissioner McQueen said. “The results we see from this pilot are incredibly encouraging. We want to learn from what is working here and create more opportunities across the state for our youngest learners to get a strong start in reading.”

“Early Literacy Matters helps support our Two-Generation strategy to serving the needs of parents and children,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “Reading is an essential part of the development young children receive in child care and I believe the partnership we have with this program will help us continue building a Thriving Tennessee.”

The Early Literacy Matters pilot launched in 2017 as the department sought to further expand its work to ensure more children have access to high-quality early reading and learning opportunities, which research has shown is influential in students’ l­ater success. Through its Read to be Ready campaign, the department has taken on a number of initiatives that work toward the goal of having more students reading on grade level by the end of third grade. The Early Literacy Matters pilot is an additional step to ensure the state’s youngest learners are receiving the enrichment they need and have exposure and engagement with high-quality books as they develop.   

The counties and districts participating in the first year of the pilot included Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Davidson, Greene, Hamblen, Sevier, Shelby, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, and Washington. The department is planning to expand in the next stage to additional districts, schools, and DHS childcare centers.

For more information about the Early Literacy Matters pilot, contact Misty Moody, the director of school-based support for the office of early learning, at For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at 615-532-6260 or