The ORIM blog


Home Learning Environments for Young Children

Cathy Nutbrown
Professor of Education, School of Education, the University of Sheffield

June 2022

It was during an online ORIM Network [1] meeting in May 2020, that the book Home Learning Environments for Young Children was conceived. The ORIM Network is a collaboration of individual early years practitioners, settings and services which use REAL Approaches arising from award winning Family Literacy research at Sheffield. Primarily on early literacy development, the impact has been wide and significant in enhancing children’s early literacy and more recently, other aspects of children’s play, learning and development.

The book describes a range of work which focuses on parents’ roles in providing Opportunities, showing Recognition, sharing Interactions, and being Models. It includes fifty-five case study examples, generously provided by members of the ORIM network, provides accounts of home visiting individual families, and of organising and evaluating group events in settings and communities to share theory with parents in an accessible way, and offer practical ideas which they might use to enhance their young children’s learning.

There are many accounts of partnership in the book, demonstrating the commitment, collaboration and effectiveness of building on what families do at home to support their young children’s learning [2]. Some examples document work during COVID-19 restrictions, others discuss work before the pandemic took hold. They are all examples of the amazing work that is possible using REAL approaches and building genuine partnerships between Early Years practitioners and families.

We end the book with a Manifesto for Home Learning – Birth to Five which sets out eight actions which we believe are necessary to take forward meaningful and effective home learning practices and provision for all families with young children.

In our Manifesto we say:

‘It will require work to take the manifesto forward; to realise what is possible for all families who want it, as well as those families whose very circumstances prevent their seeing that need or taking advantage of what is available. Policy makers must be educated to see that the children’s learning in all families calls for sustained and significant investment, so that the achievement gap can be closed, and ‘underachievement’ becomes a thing of the past. We believe, on the strength of evidence that the book rests, that this can be accomplished. It is possible.’ (Nutbrown et al., 2022:173)

As Margaret McMillan wrote in 1923 ‘We must try to do the right thing, even if the powers that be are not quite ready to make this easy’.

It was a joy to work with do many dedicated and knowledgeable people who were pleased to share their work with the wider audience who will read the book.


Home Learning Environments for Young Children by Cathy Nutbrown, Peter Clough, Kay Davies and Peter Hannon is published by Sage 2022 ISBN paperback. 978-1-5297-6782-7

Accompanying website with supplementary material: