Considerable research, including results from PIRLS, has documented the importance of early childhood literacy activities in fostering higher student achievement in reading.15,16,17,18,19 Examples of these activities include reading books, telling stories, playing with alphabet toys, talking with their children, helping children write letters or words, and reading aloud signs and labels. Perhaps the most common and important early literacy activity involves adults and older children reading aloud to their young children.20,21,22 By being read aloud to, children are exposed to oral language, which also is important for literacy acquisition.23,24,25 Beginning in PIRLS 2001, and in each cycle since then, PIRLS has asked parents about their child’s early literacy activities. In 2011, when PIRLS and TIMSS were assessed together, the Early Literacy Activities Before Beginning Primary School scale was supplemented with questions about early numeracy activities. PIRLS 2021 asks parents how often they engaged their child in a range of early literacy as well as numeracy activities.
Much research has detailed the importance of preprimary education (e.g., preschool, kindergarten, early childhood education programs) as an early start toward higher academic outcomes.26 High-quality preprimary education and other early childhood interventions are especially beneficial for disadvantaged students because they can play an important role in breaking the generationally repetitive cycle of poverty and low achievement.27,28 PIRLS always has gathered information from parents about their child’s preprimary school attendance and duration of attendance.
Quality preprimary education and early literacy activities in
the home help children develop foundational literacy skills that support higher
achievement in later grades. PIRLS has shown that children whose parents
reported that the children could do basic literacy tasks when beginning primary
school had higher reading achievement in fourth grade. The Could Do Early
Literacy Tasks When Beginning Primary School scale created in 2011 asks
parents to report on how well their child could do certain literacy tasks, such
as recognizing most of the letters of the alphabet and writing some words.
Parents convey their expectations to their children and provide educational goals for them.29,30 This includes parents and children talking about the value of education, discussing future educational and occupational expectations for the child, and helping children draw links between schoolwork and its real-world applications.31,32 PIRLS asks parents about their expectations for their child’s education.