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Children love learning and want to be successful. Getting things right at the start plays a huge part in their learning success.

If children start school with strong foundational skills, their learning journey will be easier and more successful. If they start school with gaps in their knowledge, it’s our job to fill them fast.

The foundational skills most critical to children’s early literacy development are:

  • Oral language,
  • Phonological and phonemic awareness,
  • Book and print knowledge, and
  • Letter and letter-sound knowledge.

Research shows we can level the playing field by including the right opportunities to develop these key skills in early childhood and early primary settings.

Playful literacy learning

Key Foundations provides these learning opportunities through quick, engaging, and age-appropriate lessons and games that target the key foundational skills for learning to read and write.

The activities are fun and challenging, stimulate thinking and curiosity, develop language and communication skills, and involve opportunities for multisensory learning — all the things that tap into and nurture children’s innate desire to learn.

In the same way that block and water play builds a platform for understanding math and science concepts, the Key Foundations activities help children discover how language works.

Systematic and explicit
In the same way that children learn to identify shapes and link them to objects in their environment, they learn to recognize and name letters and link them to the sounds in words.

Fast and effective
With a unique blend of discovery-based activities and systematic, explicit instruction, Key Foundations develops the essential skills children need to become successful readers and writers — all in ten minutes a day.

“Everything about Key Foundations makes sure that learning is fun, that developing language and phonological awareness is natural and cumulative, and that alphabet knowledge is learned easily and contextually.”

- Dr. John Hattie

Each Key Foundations classroom kit includes these highly engaging materials for use by students and teachers during lessons, in learning centers, and for independent learning.

Lesson Book

  • 114 10-minute lessons
  • Developmentally appropriate game-like instruction
  • Built-in assessment tools and teacher support materials

Alphabet Bops

  • Rhythmic, rhyming alphabet books that teach letter names and sounds
  • Book 1: hard c and g and the short vowel sounds
  • Book 2: soft c and g and the long vowel sounds

Game Book

  • 45 games for responsive instruction, reinforcement, and practice
  • Targeted support for oral language development and phonological and phonemic awareness skills

Picture Cards

  • 156 cards that develop vocabulary and background knowledge
  • Built-in phonological and phonemic awareness activities
  • Games for building oral language skills

Cue Cards

  • 16 cards that develop oral language and cognitive skills
  • Scaffolded language for asking and answering questions, describing, and categorizing
  • Activities for extending vocabulary

Letters Book

  • 25 consumable student books per kit
  • Support for letter recognition and formation


  • 30 engaging small-group texts for practicing and applying foundational skills in context
  • 6 student books and 1 teaching version per title with built-in prompts aligned with the science of reading

Children learn spoken language through exposure, but the same is not true for written language. The alphabetic code must be systematically and explicitly taught.

Traditionally, this has meant learning that A makes the /a/ sound in apple — working from letter to sound. This approach may work for Alex, but what are Amy, Arturo, and Amari to think?

“One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs … is that they teach the code backwards … they go from letter to sound, instead of sound to letter.”

- Dr. Louisa Moats

This traditional approach to teaching phonics works from the unknown (letters) to the known (sounds), which is problematic in itself. Worse, it leads children to believe that each letter represents a single sound (or sometimes two), which in the English language is simply not true. This sets many children up for frustration when they discover they can’t rely on the simple letter-sound associations they’ve been taught.

Key Foundations uses a different approach, working from words children already know to the individual sounds in those words and the letters that represent them. This linguistic approach allows children to work from the known to the unknown and to discover the diversity of the code from the outset.

Starting with some of their favorite words — their own names and those of their classmates — children learn to recognize and pronounce individual sounds and to discover how those sounds are written in print.

This playful and interactive method …

  • Stimulates children’s curiosity and excitement about language as they discover the alphabetic code for themselves.
  • Works from the known to the unknown, from familiar words to the sounds in those words to how to write those sounds using letters.
  • Allows all students to participate equally, working from and building on their unique bank of word and sound knowledge.
  • Rapidly builds the key foundational skills and code knowledge that accelerate both reading and writing.

It all starts with words!

Key Foundations provides comprehensive support for Pre-K language and literacy skills.

Language and communication


  • Listening attentively and responding appropriately
  • Understanding a variety of question and sentence types
  • Following oral directions


  • Engaging in oral language activities
  • Using verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Engaging in conversations
  • Asking and answering questions
  • Providing appropriate information
  • Expressing thoughts, feelings, and ideas
  • Describing and categorizing

Speech and language conventions

  • Understanding the sounds of language
  • Speaking clearly and appropriately
  • Using complete sentences
  • Combining ideas into complex sentences
  • Producing multiple sentences on a single topic
  • Using age-appropriate grammar


  • Building knowledge and vocabulary
  • Understanding relationships among words
  • Using context to determine meaning, asking for clarification when needed
  • Understanding functional and instructional language
  • Understanding some multiple-meaning words
  • Identifying pictures related to words

Emergent literacy

Motivation to read

  • Engaging in reading-related activities
  • Choosing to interact with various texts
  • Handling books appropriately
  • Understanding that text has meaning

Comprehension of text read aloud

  • Interacting with a variety of text genres
  • Showing understanding of texts read aloud
  • Participating in discussions about texts
  • Asking and answering questions about texts
  • Identifying characters and main events
  • Making predictions and inferences
  • Making connections between self, text, world
  • Using texts to build knowledge and vocabulary
  • Retelling a story
  • Identifying the roles of author and illustrator
  • Understanding how text and visuals are related
  • Using visuals to aid comprehension

Phonological awareness

  • Attending to sounds
  • Segmenting words in a sentence
  • Blending and segmenting compound words
  • Deleting a word from a compound word
  • Blending, segmenting, and deleting syllables
  • Recognizing and producing rhymes
  • Isolating and pronouncing initial sounds
  • Producing words that begin with the same sound
  • Blending onset and rime
  • Blending two- and three-phoneme words
  • Distinguishing similar sounds

Print and alphabet knowledge

  • Understanding that print represents spoken words
  • Recognizing that print is organized differently for different purposes
  • Understanding that letters form words
  • Understanding that spaces separate words
  • Identifying book parts and features
  • Understanding directionality
  • Identifying capital letters and punctuation
  • Recognizing and naming letters
  • Matching letters and sounds
  • Differentiating letters from numerals

Emergent writing

  • Participating in modeled and shared writing
  • Contributing ideas for writing, revising, and editing
  • Drawing and creating a message to express ideas
  • Recording language with marks, letters, or symbols
  • Forming letters
  • Writing first name
  • Attempting to use known letter-sound relationships when writing
  • Using directionality when writing
  • Using some capitalization and punctuation
  • Creating written work for a variety of purposes
  • Sharing writing with others
  • Writing simple high-frequency words: the, a, my, look, I, like, can, come, here, we, this, is, am, at

Key Foundations also integrates whole-child skill development while building essential background knowledge.

Prosocial skills development


  • Identifying emotions
  • Accurate self-perception
  • Recognizing strengths and limitations


  • Regulating emotions and impulses
  • Organizational skills

Social awareness

  • Perspective-taking
  • Empathy
  • Appreciating diversity
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for social rules

Relationship skills

  • Communication
  • Building relationships
  • Cooperation and teamwork
  • Seeking and offering help
  • Conflict resolution

Responsible decision-making

  • Problem-solving
  • Evaluating consequences
  • Making ethical choices
  • Resisting social pressure

Knowledge and cognition


  • Counting and comparing quantities
  • Identifying and describing shapes
  • Sorting and classifying
  • Describing measurable attributes


  • Understanding living and non-living things
  • Identifying objects in the sky
  • Describing different kinds of weather
  • Comparing and categorizing items and organisms
  • Identifying parts of the body and the five senses
  • Understanding causal relationships

Social studies

  • Identifying characteristics of self, family, and community
  • Understanding and following class routines
  • Understanding the reasons for rules and laws
  • Recognizing some roles, rights, and responsibilities
  • Identifying community workers
  • Identifying places in a community
  • Identifying basic geographical tools and features
  • Exploring democratic and economic principles

Creative expression

  • Identifying colors
  • Using a variety of art and writing materials
  • Creating art for self-expression
  • Participating in music and movement activities
  • Participating in dramatic readings and retellings

Cognitive development

Approaches to learning

  • Showing curiosity and eagerness to learn
  • Actively engaging in a variety of learning activities
  • Maintaining focus and attention

Logic and reasoning

  • Retaining, recalling, and using information
  • Making connections between ideas
  • Using creativity and imagination

Physical development

Perceptual and motor skills

  • Increasing gross motor control and coordination
  • Developing fine motor skills
  • Developing eye-hand coordination

Health and safety

  • Understanding basic safety rules and practices
  • Understanding healthy nutrition choices

Based on research and backed by evidence, the Key Foundations approach accelerates literacy achievement.

Some children seem to pick up literacy skills almost effortlessly. But for most children, learning to read and write is hard work. They need systematic, explicit instruction along with a great deal of time and practice to become proficient readers and writers.

A wide body of research shows that virtually all children benefit from explicit instruction in the way written language works — and this is especially true for children who, for whatever reason, do not have key foundational skills when they enter school.

Key Foundations grew directly out of one such research study, the Shine Literacy Project and Initiative. This five-year literacy project involved more than 5,000 students and used trial and comparison groups to test the systematic and explicit linguistic phonics approach used in Key Foundations.

After 18 months, the evidence was clear. Students who had entered school well behind their classmates and had received instruction using the Key Foundations approach had not only caught up — they had surpassed their peers in the comparison group on every measure of reading, including comprehension, accuracy, and word recognition.

Throughout the extended study, the same pattern emerged. The evidence showed that regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or prior knowledge, the Key Foundations approach leveled the playing field for all children.