The Abecedarian Project

The Abecedarian Approach is one of the few evidence-based, proven programs that integrates basic principles of human learning and development into a fun, affordable, and effective approach to early childhood education.

The Abecedarian Approach was first implemented in a landmark study conducted in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with 111 children born into extremely disadvantaged life circumstances. The Abecedarian Project.

The project was led by Craig Ramey and Joseph Sparling and centred on an intervention that involved intensive learning and social-emotional supports – starting in infancy and continuing until at least kindergarten entry – for children and their families.

The project sought to determine whether the provision of theory-based, active learning experiences could produce significant benefits in language and learning for children from highly impoverished, multi-risk families (who were known to be at risk for poor school achievement).

The intervention goals were:

  1. to support families, and
  2. to improve children’s early development and their school achievement.

The broad program included playful interactions, enriched care, and stable relationships among children and adults. Rich language interactions were individualised, frequent and intentional throughout the day, and took place through all the common events of living and caregiving. The intention was to have a broad-spectrum educational approach, because much of the day for children under two years of age included eating, dressing, exploration, play, and dynamic interactions with adults. The Approach emphasised the role of young children as active learners and the value of response-contingent feedback from the environment, and was devised into four key elements:

Since the original study, the Abecedarian Approach has been used successfully in centre-based care, home-visiting programs, family-day-care homes, and long-day-care settings.