How do early childhood teachers perceive their role in facilitating oral language and emergent literacy skill development for preschool children? Perspectives from Australia.

Tessa Weadman, La Trobe University, Australia (
Tanya Serry, La Trobe University, Australia (
Pamela Snow, La Trobe University, Australia (

Background: Early childhood teachers (ECTs) play a significant role in preparing children to become literate on school entry and in particular, to narrow the developmental gap for socially disadvantaged children. They are well-positioned to play a vital role in ensuring that preschool children experience a comprehensive curriculum filled with rich oral language and emergent literacy experiences.

Aim: To understand more about how ECTs perceive their role in supporting children’s oral language and emergent literacy skills.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine Australian ECTs from Victoria. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: ECTs attach strong significance to their role in facilitating children’s oral language growth and emergent literacy skills, and frequently engage children in book and print-related tasks as part of their daily teaching. However, participants rarely referred to using well-established oral language facilitation strategies such as modelling or expansion. Similarly, references to using dialogic book reading techniques were rare. Further, emergent literacy concepts such as phonological awareness and print awareness were not routinely described as features of their curriculum activities. Notably, participants indicated that they did not feel confident in their ability to identify preschool children with oral language difficulties and reported that they felt poorly equipped to do so based on their pre-service training.

Conclusions: ECTs have a strong willingness to support preschool children’s language and emergent literacy skills, however gaps in their own knowledge may be contributing to important and missed opportunities to assist children to reach their potential in language growth and emergent literacy knowledge prior to school entry. This is a notable finding given that oral language and emergent literacy skills are important predictors of children’s success in learning to become literate.

Implications for children: Your teacher loves to read books with you and wants to make sure they read to you in a way that helps you learn, whilst having fun!

Implications for families: ECTs are very passionate about supporting your child to maximise their early communication and literacy potential. There are important strategies they can utilise when reading and talking with children that help to foster these skills and prepare your child for starting school.  

Implications for practitioners: ECTs play an important part in helping children with their oral language and emergent literacy skills. You can learn and work together to help children get the best start to life possible.

Key words: communication, early literacy, education, qualitative methods

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: