The development of early literacy in Steiner- and standard-educated children

Anna J. Cunningham, Julia M. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


There is evidence that children who are taught to read later in childhood (age 6-7) make faster progress in early literacy than those who are taught at a younger age (4-5 years), as is current practice in the UK. Aims.Steiner-educated children begin learning how to read at age 7, and have better reading-related skills at the onset of instruction. Therefore, it is hypothesized that older Steiner-educated children will make faster progress in early literacy than younger standard-educated controls. Samples.A total of 30 Steiner-educated children (age 7-9) were compared to a matched group of 31 standard-educated controls (age 4-6). Method.Children were tested for reading, spelling, phonological awareness, and letter knowledge at three time points during their first year of formal reading instruction and again at the end of the second year. Results.There were no significant differences between groups in word reading at the end of the first and second year or reading comprehension at the end of the second year; however, the standard group outperformed the Steiner group on spelling at the end of both years. The Steiner group maintained an overall lead in phonological skills while letter knowledge was similar in both groups. Conclusions.The younger children showed similar, and in some cases, better progress in literacy than the older children; this was attributed to more consistent and high-quality synthetic phonics instruction as is administered in standard schools. Consequently, concerns that 4- to 5-year-olds are 'too young' to begin formal reading instruction may be unfounded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-490
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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