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ABC and Beyond™: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings

Can you imagine a preschool classroom where literacy learning is naturally infused throughout the day? A classroom where teachers seize every possible opportunity to make learning literacy a fun and naturally occurring experience for all children – even those who are falling behind?

The Hanen Centre imagined such classroom and designed a brand new resource to make it possible. Building on its mission to give young children the best possible start in developing strong communication skills, Hanen developed an approach focussed specifically on the promotion of emergent literacy.

The ABC and Beyond guidebook brings to life the most current research on early childhood literacy with a series of step-by-step, easy-to-use strategies for teachers to use in a variety of early childhood settings. In line with Hanen’s tradition of transforming research into accessible information and practical tools, this latest guidebook teaches early childhood professionals not just what children should learn, but exactly how to help them learn it.

ABC and Beyond identifies six building blocks of literacy and dedicates a separate chapter to each:

1. Oral language

Engaging children in back and forth conversations during book reading

2. Vocabulary

Making vocabulary instruction an integral part of book reading and everyday conversations

3. Story comprehension

Enhancing children’s ability to understand stories

4. Language of learning

Fostering complex, abstract language that is critical to reading comprehension

5. Print knowledge

Creating print-rich environments in which children are explicitly helped to understand how and why print is used

6. Phonological awareness

Building listening skills that enable children to break words into smaller parts and to associate letters with corresponding sounds

Why use ABC and Beyond™ if you train or consult to early childhood educators

►Practical strategies you can recommend to preschool teachers

Using ABC and Beyond can enhance the work you do with early childhood educators. Whether you’re a speech-language pathologist or an early childhood education consultant, you need practical and accessible resources that you can share with educators. In user-friendly Hanen fashion, ABC and Beyond outlines simple strategies for building emergent literacy that educators can easily integrate into the everyday activities they’re already doing with preschoolers.

If you see, for example, that an educator you’re working with needs help building the vocabulary of her students, you can share Chapter 3 with her, “Make New Words Sparkle to Build New Vocabulary”.

This chapter teaches educators a simple, flexible strategy that they can easily infuse into shared book reading and other daily activities with their students:

Shoot for the SSTaRS:

















To view a sample page from the guidebook explaining this strategy, click on the link below:




►Clear explanations and examples of scenarios for implementing each strategy

The ABC and Beyond guidebook is filled with concrete examples of how to apply each strategy, so teachers will have no trouble knowing what to say and do with their students.

Click on the link below to view examples from the guidebook showing how specific strategies may be implemented to help children build literacy skills:




►Colour photographs to illustrate how strategies are applied

More than 120 colour photographs beautifully illustrate how the strategies are applied in real-life contexts. Seeing how other teachers have implemented the strategies in their particular classrooms will enhance educators’ understanding and give them ideas for creative things to do in their own classroom.

Click on the link below to view sample pages from the guidebook with helpful photographs:




►Helpful checklists

Each chapter of the ABC and Beyond guidebook ends with a checklist that you can use with educators to see what they’ve changed in the way they teach and what still needs to be modified. The checklists help educators bridge the gap between what’s in the guidebook and what they’re doing in the classroom by helping them verify that they’re doing all the right things to promote each of the six building blocks of literacy.

Click on the link below to see the “building vocabulary” checklist from the guidebook:




►Assurance of an evidence-based approach

The strategies in the ABC and Beyond guidebook have been tested and proven effective in pilot programs of ABC and Beyond – The Hanen Program® for Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings.

The pilot programs clearly showed that the more educators used abstract or decontextualized language, letter names and references to sounds in words, the more the children did the same. This demonstrated that changes in educators’ literacy practices results in children gaining new and important literacy skills, which are considered to be fundamental to learning to read and write at school.

Click on the link below for a detailed research summary describing the supporting evidence for the ABC and Beyond Program and its strategies:




How other speech-language pathologists have used ABC and Beyond™

Here’s an example of how one speech-language pathologist came to believe in the power of ABC and Beyond:

Michelle is an SLP who works for her local school district. This year, she was assigned the role of supporting language and literacy development in the Pre-K classrooms. Not entirely sure what to do with children who were not yet ready for formal reading and writing, Michelle turned to the Hanen Centre’s new guidebook, ABC and Beyond.

Michelle was pleased to find specific, concrete strategies that she could share with teachers, as well as many relevant, realistic examples. Michelle decided to begin by observing how teachers were currently using books in their classroom and she set up a classroom visit with Laura, one of her Pre-K teachers.

During her observation, Michelle noticed that Laura read the book in an animated manner but rarely stopped to ask questions and encourage comments from the children. While the book she selected had an interesting storyline, it included very simple words, and the children were not encouraged to think beyond the text. Some children attended throughout the reading but others appeared disinterested or distracted. Laura didn’t draw the children’s attention to the written text or talk about the rhyming words that were included in the story. 

Michelle thought back to ABC and Beyond and realized that Laura missed many opportunities during book reading to build emergent literacy skills, such as vocabulary, narrative understanding, decontextrualized language, print knowledge and phonological awareness.

Speaking with Laura afterwards, the Pre-K teacher mentioned that her goal was for the children to sit quietly and listen during story time. Michelle acknowledged that she certainly understood that it was important for children to learn to attend. She then went on to discuss information from ABC and Beyond’s Chapter 1 and 2 that demonstrated the importance of actively engaging children in conversation about the story. She showed Laura the Checklist at the end of Chapter 2 on Turning Book Reading into a Conversation and provided her with a copy of the Checklist for her to complete as she prepared for making some changes to how she engaged children in book reading.

With the checklist, Laura readily noted that she didn’t typically Observe, Wait and Listen because she had been focusing on just getting through the book. She agreed to try to pause more during the reading to give children a chance to make comments. They decided to meet one week later to see what Laura thought about this different approach to book reading and to follow up with some additional strategies on building vocabulary – an area that is associated with future literacy success. Michelle loaned Laura her ABC and Beyond guidebook so Laura could read the first few chapters to review what they discussed.

Once Laura became more comfortable with supporting literacy through conversation, Michelle started introducing further ABC and Beyond strategies to promote vocabulary, story understanding, and language for thinking and learning. Michelle was very pleased with the way ABC and Beyond provided her with specific evidence-based strategies with practical, realistic examples to share with Laura that she knew would really make a difference in children’s literacy development. She would definitely continue to use it in future consultations with educators.

What professionals are saying about ABC and Beyond™

“A very well-written, concise, user-friendly, and truly indispensable book for all who wish to build a solid research-based foundation for launching preschoolers into the world of literacy”.
- Anne van Kleeck, PhD, Professor and Callier Research Scholar, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas

“... the book has taken many different complex, research-based approaches to helping young children build their emergent literacy skills, and has translated them into practical strategies that teachers will find very accessible and useful for all young children. Checklists provided at the end of each of the strategy chapters could be used as self-checks or by mentors or coaches. The book as a whole, as well as its individual chapters, could serve as a solid foundation for professional development for early childhood teachers”.
- Jeanette A. McCollum, Professor Emeritas, Infancy/Early Childhood Special Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


To help preschool teachers create the rich learning environments necessary to support emergent literacy, click on the link below to order ABC and Beyond today: