The Nuts and Bolts for Effective Literacy and Numeracy Instruction in Early Childhood

Hellen N. Inyega, Justus O. Inyega


This paper, using the documentary analysis approach, identifies ‘six Ts’ for improving early literacy and numeracy instruction as tongue, teachers, texts, time-on-task, technology and testing. It answers the question: What are the nuts and bolts needed to revamp early childhood teacher education and teacher professional development for greater impact and improved outcomes in early literacy and numeracy? Key findings affirm that all the six Ts must be addressed collectively for lasting impact on early literacy and numeracy instruction.

Full Text:



Abadzi, H. (2010). Reading fluency measurements in EFA FTI partner countries: Outcomes and improvement prospects. Washington: Education for All Fast Track Initiative (EFA FTI) Secretariat.

Alidou, H., Boly, A., Brock-Utne, B., Diallo, Y. S., Heugh, K., & Wolff, H. E. (2006, March). Optimizing learning and education in Africa: The language factor. Paper presented at the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) 2006 Biennial Meeting, Libreville, Gabon.

Anderson, R. C., Wilson, P. T., & Fielding, L. G. (1988).Growth in reading and how children spend their time out of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 285-303.

Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. Multilingual matters, 79.

Begi, N. (2014). Use of mother tongue as a language of instruction in early years of school to preserve the Kenyan culture. Journal of Education and Practice, 5(3); pp. 37-49.

Borrero, N. (2011). Nurturing learners' strengths: The impact of a school-based student interpreter program on Latino/a learners’ reading comprehension and English language development. Urban Education, 46(4), 663–688.

Bunyi, G. (2005). Language classroom practices in Kenya. In: A .M .Lin & P.W. Martin (Ed.), Decolonisation, globalization. Language-in-education policy and practice (pp. 131-152) Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Canagarajah, A. S. (2006a). Negotiating the local in English as a lingua franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 26, 197-218.doi: 10.1017/S0267190506000109

Canagarajah, S. (2011a). Translanguaging in the classroom: Emerging issues for research and pedagogy.doi:9783110239331.1

Canagarajah, A. S. (2011b). Codemeshing in academic writing: Identifying teachable strategies of translanguaging. The Modern Language Journal, 95(3), 401-417. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2011.01207.x

Canagarajah, S. (2013).Translingual practice: Global Englishes and cosmopolitan relations. London and New York: Routledge.

Commeyras, M. &Inyega, H. (2007).An integrative review of teaching reading in Kenyan primary schools. Reading Research Quarterly, 42(2), 258–281.

Creese, A., &Blackledge, A. (2010).Translanguaging in the bilingual classroom: A pedagogy for learning and teaching? The Modern Language Journal, 94(1), 103-115.

Cummins, J. (1989). Language and literacy acquisition in bilingual contexts. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. 10 (1) 17-31.

Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power, and pedagogy: Bilingual children at the crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2008). Teaching for transfer: Challenging the two solitudes assumptions in bilingual education. In: J. Cummins, & N.H. Hornberger (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language and education (2nded.) Vol 5: Bilingual Education (pp. 65-75).Springer Science Business Media LLC.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2003).Enhancing teaching. In: Owens, W. & Kaplan, L. S. (Eds.), Best practices, best thinking, and emerging issues in leadership (pp. 75- 87). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Davidson, M. (2013). Books children can read: Developing decodable and leveled text. Presentation made at the Early Grade Reading Skills Professional Development Event in Washington, D.C. on 4th February, 2014.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. New York: D.C. Heath.

Diaz, J. C. (1999). Bilingualism, biliteracy and beyond. In: J.C. Diaz (Ed.).Bilingualism: Building blocks for biliteracy, Conference proceedings of the bilingual children's interest group and the Language Acquisition Center (pp.1-25), Language Acquisition Research Centre: University of Western Sydney Macarthur.

Dubeck, M. M., Jukes, M. C. H., &Okello, G. (2012). Early primary literacy instruction in Kenya. Comparative Education Review, 56(1), 48-68.

ECTS.(2005). ECTS Users Guide. Brussels: Directorate-General for Education and Culture.

García, O., &Kleifgen, J.A. (2010). Educating emergent bilinguals: Policies, programs, and practices for English language learners. New York: Teachers College Press.

García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Gough, P. & Tunmer, W. (1986). Decoding, reading and reading disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 6–10.

Gove, A. &Cvelich, P. (2011).Early Reading: Igniting Education for All. A report by the Early Grade Learning Community of Practice. Revised Edition. Research Triangle Park, NC: Research Triangle Institute.

Heugh, K. (2006.) Theory and practice - language education models in Africa: Research, design, decision-making and outcomes. In: H. Alidou, A. Boly, B. Brock-Utne, Y.S. Diallo, K. Heugh & H. E. Wolff, Optimizing learning and education in Africa - the language factor: A stock-taking research on mother tongue and bilingual education in Sub- Saharan Africa (pp. 56–84).Working document. Paris, France: Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).

Available at

Heugh, K., Benson, C., Bogale, B. & Yohannes, M.A.G. (2007).Final report: Study on medium of instruction in primary schools in Ethiopia. Commissioned by the Ministry of Education.

Hoover, W.A. & Gough, P.B. (1990).The simple view of reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2, 127–160.

Jiménez, R.T., David, S., Fagan, K., Risko, V., Pacheco, M., Pray, L., & Gonzales, M. (2015). Using translation to drive conceptual development for learners becoming literate in English as an additional language. Research in the Teaching of English, 49(3), 248–271.

Jones, J. M. (2013). The ‘ideal’ vs. the ‘reality’: medium of instruction policy and implementation in different class levels in a western Kenyan school. Current Issues in Language Planning.

Jones, J. M., & Barkhuizen, G. (2011). It is two-way traffic: Teachers’ tensions in the implementation of the Kenyan language-in-education policy. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(5), 513-530.

Kellaghan, T., Greaney, V., & Murray, T. (2009).Using the results of a national assessment of educational achievement. National Assessments of Educational Achievement, 5.World Bank. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.

Kung, S. (2009). Predicting the success on a state standards test for culturally and linguistically diverse learners using curriculum-based oral reading measures. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.

Leung, C. & Street, B., Eds. (2012). English-a Changing Medium for Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Mandere, M. N., Ness, B., & Anderberg, S. (2010). Peri-urban development, livelihood change and household income: A case study of peri-urban Nyahururu, Kenya. Journal of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, 2(5), 73-83.

The National Assessment Centre. (2010). Monitoring of learner achievement for class 3 in literacy and numeracy in Kenya: Summary of results and recommendations. The Kenya National Examinations Council, Nairobi, Kenya.

Nankindu, P. (2014). Pedagogies for Teaching Reading to Multilingual Early Grade Learners in Uganda: A case of Kampala Urban District

Onsomu, E., Nzomo, J., &Obiero, C. (2005). The SACMEQ II Project in Kenya: A study of the conditions of schooling and the quality of education. Harare and Nairobi: Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) and Kenya Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

Ouane, A., & Glanz, C. (2010). Why and how Africa should invest in African languages and multilingual education (Policy Brief). Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Pacheco, M. (2015). From translanguaging to translingual practice: Teacher and student negotiation of meaning in English-centric classrooms. Vanderbilt University.

Piper, B. (2010a). Kenya Early Grade Reading Assessment findings report. Prepared in cooperation with Makerere University Institute for Social Research, for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, under the Monitoring of Learning Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa project, Contract No. 2008-3367. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: RTI International.

Piper, B. (2010b). Uganda early grade reading assessment findings report: Literacy acquisition and mother tongue. Report prepared for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation under the Monitoring of Learning Outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa project, Contract No. 2008-3367. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: RTI International.

Piper, B & Kwayumba, D. (2014).USAID EdData II . The Primary Math and Reading Initiative (PRIMR) Kisumu Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Intervention: Endline Report. North Carolina: RTI International.

Piper, B. & Miksic, E. (2011). Mother tongue and reading: Using early grade reading assessments to investigate language-of-instruction policy in East Africa. In A. Gove & A. Wetterberg (Eds.), The early grade reading assessment: Application and intervention to improve basic literacy. (pp. 139–182). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press. Retrieved from

Piper, B. & Mugenda, A. (2014).USAID/Kenya Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) Initiative: Endline impact evaluation. Prepared under the USAID Education Data for Decision Making (EdData II) project, Task Order No.AID-623-M-11-00001 (RTI Task 13). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International. Retrieved from

Piper, B., Trudell, B. & Schroeder, L. (2011).Oral reading fluency and comprehension in Kenya: Reading acquisition in a multilingual environment. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Piper, B. & Zuilkowski, S.S. (2015).The role of timing in assessing oral reading fluency and comprehension in Kenya. Language Testing. DOI: 10.1177/0265532215579529

Rasinski, T.V., Reutzel, R.D., Chard, D. & Linan-Thompson, S. (2010). Reading fluency. In M.L. Kamil, P.D. Pearson, E.B. Moje & P.P. Afflerback (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research IV. (pp. 286–319). New York, NY: Routledge.

Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the teaching of early reading. Nottingham, UK: DfES Publications, for the UK Department for Education and Skills. Retrieved from

Tembe, J. , 2014). African Storybook Project. Presented at the Early Learning Innovations Workshop and Exchange Forum in Nairobi in January, 2014.

Trudell, B. (2012). Of gateways and gatekeepers: Language, education and mobility in Francophone Africa. International Journal of Educational Development, 32, 368-375.

Trudell, B., Knofe, B., (2010). Language of literacy, language of schooling: Enhancing the potential links between nonformal and formal education programs in Africa. Paper presented at the B.S. Chumbow International Symposium on Language and Education, Yaounde´ 7–10 April.

UNESCO (1953). The use of vernacular language in education. Paris: UNESCO.

UNESCO (2012). EFA Global Monitoring Report: Youth and skills, putting education to work. Paris: UNESCO.

USAID Kenya (2014). Kenya Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) Initiative Fact Sheet – June 2014. Nairobi: USAID Kenya.

Uwezo (2014) Are our Children Learning? Literacy and numeracy assessment across East Africa. Nairobi: Uwezo.

Wasanga, P. M., Ogle, A. M., &Wambua, R. M. (2010). Report on Monitoring of Learner Achievement for Class 3 in Literacy and Numeracy. Nairobi: Kenya National Examinations Council.

WERK (2015). Improving learning outcomes through a mother-tongue-based multi-lingual education programme in Kajiado County. Nairobi: WERK.

Widdowson, H. (2001). The monolingual teaching and bilingual learning of English. In R. Cooper, E. Shohamy and J, Walters (Ed.), New perspectives and issues in educational language policy. In honor of Bernard DovSpolsky (pp. 1-18). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Zuilkowski, S. S. & Piper, B. (2014).Improving reading outcomes in Kenya: First-year effects of the PRIMR Initiative. RTI International, SREE Spring 2014 Conference.


  • There are currently no refbacks.