Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Katherine Hayes Fondation


Many American preschool children enter kindergarten without the emergent literacy skills needed to learn to read. To address this problem, this multicase qualitative study investigated the emergent literacy practices at Steiner Waldorf-inspired and Reggio Emilia-inspired schools. The research questions focused on how alternative preschool philosophies help staff cultivate emergent literacy skills in young children. The conceptual framework came from Piaget's cognitive development theory, and Vygotsky's sociocultural theory. The study included eight participants from two Reggio Emilia-inspired and two Steiner Waldorf-inspired preschools. Data were collected through open-ended interviews, observations, and analyses of de-identified student work, then subjected to thematic cross-case analysis. Regarding the role of the two philosophies in the development of emergent literacy skills, findings indicated that teachers cited the philosophies leading them to honor their students, focus on the development of the whole child, and act as facilitators for children's oral language development through play. Regarding how program staff apply their program philosophies to creating emergent literacy through the learning environment key, the findings showed that both Steiner Waldorf-inspired and Reggio Emilia-inspired staff viewed the environment as another teacher. Reggio Emilia-inspired staff carefully organized the indoor and outdoor learning environments to provide numerous opportunities for authentic experiences and play, while Waldorf-inspired staff was more likely to draw from nature itself to create opportunities for imaginary play. When children start school with a solid foundation in emergent literacy, they are more likely to be successful readers.