Literacy and Language Outcomes of Comprehensive and Developmental-Constructivist Approaches to Early Childhood Education: A Systematic Review


This systematic review of research on early childhood programs seeks to identify
effective approaches capable of improving literacy and language outcomes for preschoolers. It
applies consistent standards to determine the strength of evidence supporting a variety of
approaches, which fell into two main categories: comprehensive approaches, which include
phonemic awareness, phonics, and other skills along with child-initiated activities, and
developmental-constructivist approaches that focus on child-initiated activities with little direct
teaching of early literacy skills. Inclusion criteria included use of randomized or matched control
groups, evidence of initial equality, a minimum study duration of 12 weeks, and valid measures
of literacy and language. Thirty-two studies evaluating 22 programs found that comprehensive
early childhood programs that have a balance of skill-focused and child-initiated activities
programs had significant evidence of positive literacy and language outcomes at the end of
preschool and on kindergarten follow-up measures. Effects were smaller and not statistically
significant for developmental-constructivist programs.