ORIM based projects

Framework for early literacy

Opportunities, Recognition, Interaction and Models (2011–2012)


The project A Framework for Early Literacy Development with Parents: Opportunities, Recognition, Interaction and Models (ORIM) (PDF, 1.4MB) ran from April 2011 to March 2012. It was funded by a Knowledge Exchange grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.

The project sought to build on the Sheffield REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy) project by exploring how a new generation of early years practitioners could make meaningful use of the ORIM framework (PDF, 284KB) to support their work with parents to promote early literacy development. The project was directed by Professor Cathy Nutbrown of the University of Sheffield.

Aims and objectives

The project aimed to draw on the experiences and findings of the REAL project with a new generation of practitioners. It also aimed to identify key strengths of the ORIM framework which would enhance the project's work with families in a range of early childhood settings. The team wanted to facilitate the adaptation and use of the ORIM framework into current family literacy practices and new curriculum areas, and for use with families and a range of practitioners nationwide.

A further aim of the project was to encourage the use of, and contribution to, the Sheffield REAL project website, in partnership with the Early Childhood Unit of the National Children’s Bureau. This was so the project outcomes, combined with existing resources for the REAL project, would create an internationally available resource.

Another important dimension to the project was to create an ongoing discussion to establish a democratic and two-way process of knowledge exchange. This would be achieved through joint working, group discussions and innovations of practitioners and researchers.

The three project residentials provided a space to appraise, with practitioners, the ways in which they had used and adapted the ORIM framework for work with children and families on literacy and other curriculum areas. The collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the practitioners has resulted in a series of articles on The Strands of Literacy, published in Teach Nursery (2013).

The project

The project began in May 2011 with a national conference on Early Literacy Work with Families at the University of Sheffield. Following this, a group of 20 early years practitioners were identified, from a range of local authorities and types of setting and background experience.

The practitioners attended three 24-hour residential workshops where they discussed the ORIM framework and its application to current practice, shared ideas and developed new materials which portrayed their own use of the ORIM framework with families. Their stories and resources are available to download.

The project culminated in a second conference in March 2012 at which the project practitioners shared their experience of working with the ORIM framework, including new developments.


By the end of the project, the 20 practitioners who took part had shared the ORIM framework with 300 other practitioners and 6000 families.

In May 2013, the project’s director, Professor Cathy Nutbrown, was the winner of an ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize in recognition of the project’s achievements in research with an outstanding impact on society.

Watch the ESRC video: Outstanding Impact in Society: Professor Cathy Nutbrown

Since the end of the project, the practitioners have continued to use the ORIM framework to develop their practice. An example of this work is ORIM in WF13: Working with Bilingual Children and Families.