Policy briefs, reports and articles

Wordworks tries to make our key messages on early language and literacy accessible through a range of easy-to-read publications.


Why learning to read starts long before primary school








Our Director, Shelley O’Carroll, spoke to help2read about building literacy skills with children, including giving practical activities, before they start primary school.

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Much More than Counting: Mathematics Development between birth and five years


This joint report by Wordworks and the Schools Development Unit describes the different ways in which young children learn mathematics and the main mathematics learning strands.

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Narrowing the Literacy Gap: Strengthening language and literacy development between birth and six years for children in South Africa


This report discusses why language development in a child’€™s first years is so important to later reading and writing skills.

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Narrowing the literacy gap: Making a case for the importance of early language and literacy development in South Africa


Provides a useful summary of our €˜Narrowing the Literacy Gap€™ report.

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Early language, literacy and mathematics learning: Why does it matter and who benefits?


This briefing looks at why the period between birth and five years is such a crucial formative time for a child, setting the trajectory for their school years and beyond. It explains how the benefits of investing in this period are deep and wide, providing the foundations not only for individual flourishing, but also for a successful education system, a stronger society, and more efficient public spending. We also discuss how high quality opportunities for language, literacy and maths learning have been shown to be an essential element of any successful early years programme, and consider how and why language is at the heart of all learning.

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Early language and literacy: What skills and understanding do young children need?


This briefing looks at the skills and understanding that young children need in order to learn to read and write successfully. Improving knowledge of what these early literacy competencies are and how they can be nurtured in the home and other ECD settings must be a key part of any strategy to raise literacy rates in South Africa.

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Early language and literacy: How do children learn and how can adults support them?

The third in our series of policy briefings looks at the ‘how to’ of language and literacy learning in the pre-school years. As well as considering the question of how children learn, this briefing looks at the vital role of adults, the specific activities that support early literacy, and the key features of an effective learning environment.


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Article: An exploratory study of early letter-sound knowledge in a low socio-economic context in South Africa.

Shelley O’Carroll

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