ArticlePDF Available

An Investigation of the Effects of a Prereading Intervention on the Early Literacy Skills of Children At Risk of Emotional Disturbance and Reading Problems

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a cohesive and intensive preventive prereading intervention on the phonological awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills of children at risk of emotional disturbance and reading problems.Thirty-six children were assigned randomly to an experimental or comparison condition. Children in the experimental condition received Stepping Stones to Literacy. Stepping Stones includes 25 lessons designed to teach children pivotal prereading skills (e.g., phonological awareness, letter identification). Children in the experimental condition showed statistically significant improvements in their phonological awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills relative to children in the comparison condition. Effect size estimates indicate that the improvements were moderate to large across all of the phonological awareness, word reading, and rapid naming measures. Treatment nonresponder analyses indicated that a relatively small number of children in the experimental group failed to show satisfactory gains in their phonological awareness (n = 3),word reading (n = 1), and rapid naming (n = 3) skills.
Content may be subject to copyright.
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1, PAGES 3–12
3
T
he purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a cohesive
and intensive preventive prereading intervention on the phonological
awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills of children at risk of
emotional disturbance and reading problems.Thirty-six children were assigned
randomly to an experimental or comparison condition. Children in the ex-
perimental condition received Stepping Stones to Literacy. Stepping Stones in-
cludes 25 lessons designed to teach children pivotal prereading skills (e.g.,
phonological awareness, letter identification). Children in the experimental
condition showed statistically significant improvements in their phonological
awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills relative to children in the
comparison condition. Effect size estimates indicate that the improvements
were moderate to large across all of the phonological awareness, word read-
ing, and rapid naming measures.Treatment nonresponder analyses indicated
that a relatively small number of children in the experimental group failed to
show satisfactory gains in their phonological awareness (n = 3), word reading
(n = 1), and rapid naming (n = 3) skills.
Reading is one of the principal elements required to achieve so-
cial, educational, and vocational success (Jenkins & O’Connor,
2002). Unfortunately, children with or at risk of emotional dis-
turbance (ED) face enormous challenges learning to read. Many
of these children have reading problems (e.g., Greenbaum et al.,
1996; Mattison, Spitznagel, & Felix, 1998; Meadows, Neel,
Scott, & Parker, 1994; Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004).
Further compounding the reading problems of children with or
at risk of ED is a growing body of evidence that suggests that
they are likely to respond poorly to generally effective pre-
reading and reading interventions (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002;
Nelson, Benner, & Gonzalez, 2003). Based on weighted mean
Z
r
effect size calculations, problem behavior (Z
r
= .46) was
found to be as strongly related (i.e., statistically equivalent) to
treatment outcomes as rapid naming (Z
r
= .51), phonological
(Z
r
= .42), and alphabetic understanding (Z
r
= .35) deficits (Nel-
son et al., 2003). In this context, it is of interest to study the
effects of a cohesive and intensive preventive prereading inter-
vention on the literacy skills of children at risk of ED and read-
ing problems.
We begin by defining how different types of reading pro-
grams are currently conceptualized and studied by researchers
and used by educators. There are three general levels of read-
ing programs:
1. core,
2. supplementary, and
3. intervention (Simmons & Kame’enui, 2003).
Core reading programs are the primary instructional tool that
educators use to teach children to be proficient readers. Sup-
plementary reading programs are used by educators to support
or extend a core reading program that is weak in one or more
key areas (e.g., phonological awareness, graphophonemic knowl-
edge). Intervention programs are used by educators to meet the
needs of children who demonstrate or are at risk of reading
problems. Remedial interventions are designed to ameliorate
children’s demonstrated reading problems, whereas preventive
An Investigation of the Effects of a
Prereading Intervention on the Early
Literacy Skills of Children At Risk
of Emotional Disturbance and
Reading Problems
J. RON NELSON,GREGORY J. BENNER, AND JORGE GONZALEZ
4
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
interventions are aimed at younger children at risk of develop-
ing such problems (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999).
Given the relatively severe reading problems of children
with or at risk of ED early in their school career (e.g., Nelson
et al., 2004), it is surprising that researchers have primarily
focused on the effects of supplementary (Lane, 1999; Lane,
O’Shaughnessy, Lambros, Gresham, & Beebe-Frankenberger,
2001; Lane et al., 2002) and remedial (Allyon, Kuhlman, &
Warzak, 1982; Cochran, Feng, Cartledge, & Hamilton, 1993;
Falk & Wehby, 2001; McCurdy, Cundari, & Lentz, 1990;
McLaughlin, 1992; Shisler, Top, & Osguthorpe, 1986; Wehby,
Falk, Lane, Barton-Arwood, & Cooley, 2003) interventions on
the literacy skills of children with demonstrated reading prob-
lems. It appears that only one study has been conducted to date
on the outcomes of a core word reading program (Trout, Ep-
stein, Mickelson, Nelson, & Lewis, 2003) and that no studies
have been conducted on the outcomes of preventive prereading
interventions directed at kindergarten children at risk of ED and
reading problems. This is unfortunate because there is growing
evidence of the importance of helping children to achieve a good
start toward proficient reading early in their education career
(Burns et al., 1999; National Academy of Sciences, 1998; Na-
tional Institute of Child Health and Human Development
[NICHHD], 2000).
Trout and colleagues (2003) used a quasi-experimental de-
sign to study the effects of a combined core and supplementary
word reading program on the literacy skills of kindergarten chil-
dren at risk of ED and reading problems: Reading Mastery I
(Engelmann & Bruner, 1988) and Great Leaps (Mercer &
Campbell, 1998), respectively. Reading Mastery I is a scientif-
ically based core word reading program that demonstrated pos-
itive outcomes with a wide range of populations at risk of
reading problems (Adams & Engelmann, 1996). Great Leaps is
designed to improve children’s fluency. Although these core and
supplementary word reading programs are commonly delivered
to groups of students, trained research assistants delivered them
in a one-to-one instructional format. The results indicated that
the target children (n = 6) receiving word reading programs out-
performed their comparison at-risk children (n = 6) and norm-
referencing (n = 6) peers (children not at risk of ED and reading
problems) on measures of phonological awareness and word
reading. The results suggest that kindergarten children at risk
of ED and reading problems will respond positively to com-
bined comprehensive core and supplementary word reading
programs when delivered in a one-to-one instructional format.
This study extends this work by assessing the outcomes of
a cohesive and intensive preventive prereading intervention pro-
gram (i.e., Stepping Stones to Literacy; Nelson, Cooper, & Gon-
zalez, 2004) on the literacy skills of kindergarten children at risk
of ED and reading problems. Stepping Stones is designed to en-
hance children’s pivotal literacy skills (e.g., phonological
awareness, letter identification) so that they can benefit more
fully from the core (and supplementary if applicable) kinder-
garten literacy instruction provided to all children. One of the
key strengths of Stepping Stones is that it is short (in number
and length of lessons). This is important because intervening
during the kindergarten year offers the least intrusive opportu-
nity for getting students on the right track for subsequent read-
ing development (word reading interventions offered in first and
second grade tend to be much longer in both number and length
of instructional sessions) (NICHHD, 2000).
This study extends the research on the outcomes of pre-
reading interventions in three ways. First, the participant sam-
ple directly targets children who possess learner characteristics
(i.e., behavior problems, phonological deficits) found to be re-
lated to treatment outcomes (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002; Nelson
et al., 2003). Second, Stepping Stones focuses exclusively on
pivotal prereading skills (e.g., phonological awareness, letter
identification) and does not include word reading skills (e.g.,
letter–sound correspondence). Previous research on prereading
interventions conducted with kindergarten children typically
included word reading instructional activities (Jenkins & O’Con-
nor, 2002). Finally, Stepping Stones includes embedded in-
structional activities to enhance the serial processing or rapid
naming skills of children. There is clear evidence in the fields
of genetics (e.g., Davis et al., 2001), language (e.g., Catts, Fey,
Zhang, & Tomblin, 1999; Weckerly, Wulfeck, & Reilly, 2001),
reading (e.g., Compton, 2003), and neurosciences (Wolf, Bow-
ers, & Biddle, 2000) that serial processing skills are critical to
proficient reading.
METHOD
Participants
A total of 36 kindergarten children (18 experimental, 18 com-
parison) at risk of ED and reading problems participated.
Parental informed consent was obtained in all cases. The
children were drawn from kindergarten classrooms in seven
moderate- to high-poverty elementary schools located in a
medium-sized midwestern city. A three-step screening process
was used to identify participants. The first two steps of the
screening process included the first and second gates of the
Early Screening Project (ESP; Walker, Severson, & Feil, 1995).
These steps were used to identify children at risk for ED. The
remaining step included the administration of the Dynamic In-
dicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good &
Kaminski, 2002) Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) and Phoneme
Segmentation Fluency (PSF) probes (described below). This
step was used to identify children at risk for reading problems.
At Step 1, teachers were provided with a definition and ex-
amples of externalizing and internalizing behavioral character-
istics articulated in the ESP. Teachers then generated two
mutually exclusive lists of children. The first list included those
children whose characteristic behavior patterns most closely re-
sembled the externalizing behavioral description. Teachers then
rank ordered those children according to the degree their be-
havior matched the externalizing definition. An identical pro-
cedure was followed to list and rank children according to the
internalizing behavioral definition.
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
5
At Step 2, teachers completed two scales (Maladaptive Be-
havior and Adaptive Behavior) on the five highest externalizing
and internalizing children identified in the first step. The Adap-
tive Behavior scale includes 12 items that assess teacher- and
peer-related adaptive behavior. The Maladaptive Behavior scale
includes 11 items that assess teacher- and peer-related problem
behavior. Teachers’ ratings on the Adaptive Behavior and Mal-
adaptive Behavior scales are based on the frequency of chil-
dren’s behavior within the last month. Children with t scores of
60 or more on the Adaptive Behavior scale or the Maladaptive
Behavior scale were eligible for participation. A total of 42 chil-
dren were eligible for participation and were assigned randomly
to the experimental or comparison condition.
At Step 3, the phonological awareness and rapid naming
skills of the 42 children meeting normative criteria for ED were
assessed using the DIBELS PSF and LNF probes, respectively.
Children who correctly segmented fewer than 18 phonemes and
identified fewer than 27 letter names were eligible for partici-
pation. These criteria were based on the DIBELS benchmarks,
indicating some risk for reading problems (Good & Kaminski,
2002). Six of the 42 children were excluded from participation
in this study.
The demographic characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity,
English–language-learner status, lunch status) and Maladaptive
Behavior as well as Adaptive Behavior t scores of participating
children by condition are presented in Table 1. The average age
of children was 5.7 (SD = 0.4). A majority of the children were
boys (n = 34). The overall ethnic breakdown of the children in-
cluded 22 Caucasians, 10 African-Americans, 3 Hispanics, and
1 Asian-American. Two of the children were English-language
learners. The number of children receiving free or reduced
lunches was 19 (53%). The overall preintervention Maladaptive
Behavior and Adaptive Behavior t scores of children were 76.4
(SD = 6.2) and 70.8 (SD = 6.9), respectively. The results of a
one-way Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) indi-
cated that the mean preintervention Maladaptive Behavior and
Adaptive Behavior t scores of children in the experimental and
comparison conditions were statistically equivalent, F(2, 36) =
0.24, p > 0.05. Because of the limited numbers of girls and
English-language learners, as well as the disproportionate dis-
tribution of children across ethnic groups, these variables were
not examined further.
Design and Conditions
A pre–post experimental–comparison group design (Martella,
Nelson, & Marchand-Martella, 1999) was used to investigate
the effects of a cohesive and intensive preventive prereading in-
tervention program on the phonological awareness, word read-
ing, and rapid naming skills of kindergarten children at risk of
TABLE 1
Gender, Ethnicity, Lunch Status, English–Language-Learner Status, Age, and Early Screening Project
Scores of Participants by Experimental Condition
Condition
Experimental Comparison
Demographic variable n % MSDn % MSD
Gender
Boys 17 94 17 94
Girls 1 6 1 6
Ethnicity
African American 6 33 4 22
Asian American 0 0 1 6
Caucasian 10 56 12 66
Hispanic 2 11 1 6
Lunch status
Regular 7 39 10 56
Free or reduced 11 61 8 44
Age 5.7 .3 5.7 .5
Early Screening Project scores
Maladaptive Behavior 76.4 5.4 75.6 7.1
Adaptive Behavior 70.3 7.4 71.2 6.6
English-language learners 1 6 1 6
6
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
2. sound relationships (Lessons 1–5: Children are instructed
to identify the sound associated with the picture of an
animal and to identify the picture of the animal associated
with the sound of an animal.)
3. sounds in sequence (Lessons 6–10: Children are instructed
to identify the sequence of sounds articulated by the
instructor.)
4. sound expectations (Lessons 6–10: Children are instructed
to identify unexpected words articulated by the instructor
within the context of a nursery rhyme.)
5. omit a sound (Lessons 11–14: Children are instructed to
identify an environmental sound (e.g., dog barking or
cough) omitted from a sequence of sounds articulated by
the instructor.)
Letter Naming and Sentence Meaning. Five instructional
activities are used to teach children pivotal conventional early
literacy skills:
1. sentence recognition (Lessons 1–6: Children are instructed
to identify what is happening in each sentence of a nursery
rhyme articulated by the instructor.)
2. sentence generation (Lessons 6–10: Children are
instructed to generate descriptions of what might be
happening in a picture.)
3. letter names (Lessons 1–25: Children are instructed to
point and say letter names presented in a left-to-right
format.)
4. letter name practice (Lessons 5–25: Children are
instructed to point and say as many letter names presented
in a left-to-right format as they can in 1 minute.)
5. letter name cumulative review (Lessons 11, 15, 19–20,
23–25: Children are instructed to point and say as many
letter names presented in a left-to-right format as they can
in 1 minute.)
The latter two instructional activities provide immediate and in-
termittent review of letter names and serial processing practices.
Phonological Awareness. Five instructional activities are
used to teach children to be consciously aware of the linguistic
structure of the largest units of oral language (e.g., words, syl-
lables):
1. rhyme identification (Lessons 1–7: Children are instructed
to identify words that rhyme with one another in the
context of a nursery rhyme.)
2. rhyme generation (Lessons 8–14: Children are instructed
to generate several words that rhyme with a word
articulated by the instructor.)
3. word segmentation (Lessons 11–14: Children are
instructed to clap every time they hear a word in a nursery
rhyme articulated by the instructor.)
4. syllable blending (Lessons 11–14: Children are instructed
to generate the word associated with two or more blended
syllables articulated by the instructor.)
ED and reading problems. The 36 children were assigned ran-
domly to the experimental or comparison condition. Children
in both conditions continued to receive the core kindergarten
literacy instruction offered in the classrooms.
Experimental
In addition to the kindergarten literacy instruction, children in
the experimental condition received Stepping Stones to Liter-
acy, a cohesive and intensive preventive prereading intervention
for young children at risk for reading problems (Nelson, Cooper,
& Gonzalez, 2004). All Stepping Stones lessons are scripted
(i.e., they include all instructional prompts and activities). The
lessons were delivered in a one-to-one format by trained
paraprofessional-level tutors (project staff) during the school
day. The tutor training included five steps (conducted by the sec-
ond and third authors). First, tutors were provided with the the-
ory and rationale for Stepping Stones. Second, each of the
instructional activities in Stepping Stones was described to and
modeled for the tutors. Third, tutors then practiced each of the
instructional activities with each other. Tutors were provided
with corrective feedback while they were practicing the in-
structional activities. Fourth, tutors were observed delivering
three complete lessons selected randomly. The tutors were re-
quired to implement at least 90% of the Stepping Stones lesson
components (i.e., n = 15) as prescribed prior to tutoring chil-
dren. Finally, following training, tutors were observed and pro-
vided with corrective feedback, if necessary, while tutoring
children during the first five lessons.
Stepping Stones consists of one Lesson Book, containing
Lessons 1 to 25 and a section on serial processing, or rapid nam-
ing (10 activities that give children practice processing known
sets of colors, numbers, and objects in a left-to-right format).
During each daily lesson of 10 to 20 minutes, children were
guided through a set of instructional activities designed to pro-
mote six pivotal prereading skills:
1. identification, manipulation, and memory of environ-
mental sounds (parallel phonemic awareness tasks);
2. letter names;
3. sentence meanings;
4. phonological awareness;
5. phonemic awareness; and
6. serial processing or rapid naming.
A brief description of the instructional activities follow.
Identification, Manipulation, and Memory of Environ-
mental Sounds. Five instructional activities are used to teach
children a set of pivotal sound identification, manipulation, and
memory skills necessary for them to fully benefit from instruc-
tional activities:
1. sounds in isolation (Lessons 1–5: Children are instructed
to listen for the name of an animal articulated by the
instructor within the context of a nursery rhyme.)
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
7
5. onset-rime blending (Lessons 15–17: Children are
instructed to generate the word associated with the initial
sound and a specific word family (e.g., of, at) articulated
by the instructor.)
Phonemic Awareness. Four instructional activities are used
to teach children to be consciously aware of the smallest units
of oral language (i.e., phonemes):
1. phoneme deletion (Lessons 15–18: Children are instructed
to generate the remaining word after the initial phoneme
has been deleted from a word articulated by the instructor.)
2. phoneme identification (Lessons 18–21: Children are
instructed to identify each phoneme within a word
articulated by the instructor.)
3. phoneme segmentation (Lessons 15–25: Children are
instructed to generate the initial, initial and final, or initial,
medial, and final phoneme within a word articulated by
the instructor.)
4. phoneme change (Lessons 19–25: Children are instructed
to generate a new word by changing the initial, final, or
medial phoneme within a word articulated by the
instructor.)
Serial Processing. One instructional activity is used to en-
hance children’s serial processing skills. Children are presented
with an array of visually depicted known stimuli that represent
linguistic information (e.g., a series of five colors, letters, num-
bers, known objects) placed in random order.
Comparison
Children in the comparison condition received the kindergarten
literacy instruction offered in the classroom. No attempt (e.g.,
staff development activities directed at language development,
prereading, or word reading skills) was made to change any of
the early literacy instructional activities provided to children by
teachers. Children received the primary curriculum offered in
the classrooms across the participating schools. The general
early literacy curriculum comprised the phonics supplement of
the Open Court reading program (Adams et al., 2000) coupled
with early literacy development activities designed by the teach-
ers (e.g., reading and telling stories). Teachers addressed two
primary literacy areas sequentially across the kindergarten year.
The first part focused on prereading skills. Instructional activi-
ties centered on concepts of print (e.g., parts of books and their
function, predictions based on illustrations or portions of stories,
connection of events in text and life, letter names). The second
part focused on preparing the children to word-read. Instruc-
tional activities centered on phonemic awareness, letter-sound
correspondence, simple sight words, reading familiar text, writ-
ing letters, and conventionally spelled words.
Treatment Fidelity
Tutor self-evaluations and direct observations were used to as-
sess treatment fidelity. Both measures assessed the total number
of program components implemented correctly. The program
elements included three items that focused on setting up the tu-
toring session (e.g., organizing tutoring materials), nine imple-
mentation components (e.g., followed the scripted instructional
format), and three that ended the tutoring session (e.g., provided
positive specific praise statements). Each tutor completed the
self-evaluations on a weekly basis. Tutors were observed three
times during implementation of the early literacy support
program. Three trained observers conducted observations
randomly.
The observer training occurred simultaneously with the
training of the tutors. The observers studied the definitions for
each of the components included on the treatment fidelity ob-
servation form. They then observed the tutor practice sessions.
During those sessions, observers’ scores were compared and
discrepancies discussed. Observers were required to obtain at
least 90% agreement across instructional components before
beginning treatment fidelity observations.
Dependent Measures
Standardized, individually administered measures were used to
assess three early literacy constructs:
1. phonological awareness
2. word reading
3. rapid naming
Descriptions follow of the measures used to assess each of the
constructs.
Phonological Awareness
Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP).
The Phonological Awareness (PA) composite from the CTOPP
was used. The PA composite is a norm-referenced assessment
that provides an overall measure of the child’s phonological
awareness skills (Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 1999). The PA
composite comprises the Elision, Blending Words, and Sound
Matching subtests. The Elision subtest includes 20 items that
measure the extent to which the child can say a word and then
say what is left after dropping out designated sounds. The
Blending Words subtest includes 20 items that measure the ex-
tent to which the child can combine sounds to form words. The
Sound Matching subtest includes 20 items that measure the ex-
tent to which the child can match sounds. The coefficient alpha
for the PA composite ranges from .95 to .98 across ethnic
groups, and the overall test-retest reliability was .77 (Wagner et
al., 1999). Furthermore, the coefficient alphas for the Elision,
Blending Words, and Sound Matching subtests ranged from .87
to .95 across ethnic groups, and the overall test-retest reliabili-
ties ranged from .71 to .81.
DIBELS Initial Sound Fluency (ISF). The ISF probe pro-
vides a measure of a child’s phonological awareness skills
8
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
(Good & Kaminski, 2002). It measures a child’s ability to iden-
tify the initial sound in an orally presented word. The child is
presented with four pictures and associated names and asked to
identify (i.e., point to or say) the picture that represents the sound
presented orally by the examiner. Children are also asked to
orally produce the initial sound for an orally presented word.
The score is the total number of onsets correctly produced in
1 minute. The ISF has an alternate form reliability of .79 (Good
& Kaminski, 2002).
DIBELS Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF). The PSF
probe provides a measure of a child’s phonological awareness
skills (Good & Kaminski, 2002). It measures a child’s ability to
segment three- and four-phoneme words into their individual
phonemes fluently. The child is presented with words orally and
asked to produce verbally the individual phonemes for each
word. The score is the total number of phonemes produced cor-
rectly in 1 minute. The PSF has an alternate form reliability of
.79 (Good & Kaminski, 2002).
Word Reading
DIBELS Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF). The NWF
probe provides a measure of a child’s word reading, including
letter-sound correspondence and the ability to blend letter
sounds into words (Good & Kaminski, 2002). The child is pre-
sented with a set of random VC and CVC nonsense words (e.g.,
sig,rav,ov) and is asked to produce orally either the letter sounds
in isolation or the complete nonsense word. The score is the total
number of letter sounds produced correctly in 1 minute. The
NWF has an alternative form reliability of .83 (Hintze, Ryan,
& Stoner, 2002).
Rapid Naming
CTOPP Rapid Naming (RN) Composite. The RN com-
posite is a norm-referenced assessment that provides an overall
measure of the child’s ability to efficiently retrieve phonologi-
cal information from long-term memory. It comprises the Rapid
Color Naming and Rapid Object Naming subtests. The Rapid
Color Naming subtest includes 72 items that measure the speed
with which a child can name the colors of a series of different-
colored blocks printed on two pages. The Rapid Object Nam-
ing subtest includes 72 items that measure the speed with which
a child can name a series of objects on two pages. The coeffi-
cient alpha for the RN composite ranges from .83 to .91 across
ethnic groups, and the overall test–retest reliability was .90
(Wagner et al., 1999). Furthermore, the coefficient alphas for
the Rapid Color Naming and Rapid Object Naming subtests
ranged from .76 to .91 across ethnic groups, and the overall test-
retest reliabilities ranged from .81 to .86.
DIBELS Letter Naming Fluency (LNF). The LNF probe
measures the speed with which a child can name letters (Good
& Kaminski, 2002). The child is presented with a page of ran-
dom upper- and lowercase letters and is asked to name as many
as he or she can in 1 minute. The score is the total number of
letters named correctly. The LNF has an alternative reliability
of .93 (Hintze et al., 2002).
RESULTS
Treatment Fidelity
The tutor-reported overall mean percentage of Stepping Stones
to Literacy intervention program components implemented cor-
rectly was 97% (SD = 2.56). Independent observations were
conducted randomly on a total of 42 tutoring sessions. The
percentage of intervention program components implemented
correctly was 100% in all cases. Interobserver agreement was
conducted on 33% of the sessions and was 100%.
Preintervention Literacy Levels
The preintervention means and standard deviations are pre-
sented in Table 2. Independent sample t-tests applied to the
preintervention CTOPP PA composite, t(34) = .95, p > .05,
DIBELS ISF, t(34) = 1.92, p > .05, and DIBELS PSF, t(34) =
.76, p > .05, scores revealed no statistically significant prein-
tervention differences in the phonological awareness skills of
children in the experimental and comparison conditions. The
independent samples t-test computed on the preintervention
DIBELS NWF, t(34) = .59, p > .05, scores indicated that the
word reading skills of children in the experimental and control
conditions were statistically equivalent. Independent samples
t-tests applied to the CTOPP RN composite, t(34) = 1.07, p >
.05, and DIBELS LNF, t(34) = 1.12, p > .05, revealed no sta-
tistically significant preintervention differences in the rapid
naming skills of children in the experimental and comparison
conditions. Taken together, these results demonstrate the com-
parability of the treatment groups in terms of preintervention
phonological awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills.
Changes in Literacy Skills
The mean pre- and post- change scores for the experimental and
comparison conditions and associated F values are presented in
Table 2. Relative to children in the comparison condition, chil-
dren in the experimental condition showed substantial im-
provements in their phonological awareness, word reading, and
rapid naming skills. Children in the comparison condition gen-
erally showed relatively small improvements in those skills.
Mean changes in the experimental and comparison groups’
phonological awareness, word reading, and rapid naming mea-
sures were analyzed in Group (Experimental, Comparison) ×
Change (Preintervention, Postintervention) Analysis of Vari-
ances (ANOVAs), with the latter variable being a within-subject
factor. Furthermore, Bonferroni corrections were used to set sig-
nificance level. A significant Group × Change interaction ef-
fect was obtained in all cases. These results demonstrate that
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
9
Treatment Nonresponders
Treatment nonresponder analyses were conducted to determine
how many children in the experimental condition failed to show
satisfactory gains in phonological awareness, word reading, and
rapid naming. The treatment nonresponder analyses were based
on procedures used by Fuchs, Fuchs, Yazdian, and Powell
(2002). Treatment nonresponders in the areas of phonological
awareness (i.e., CTOPP PA), word reading (i.e., DIBELS NWF),
and rapid naming (i.e., CTOPP RN) were operationally defined
as children in the experimental condition whose obtained gain
score was less than the mean gain score of those in the com-
parison condition. The numbers of children in the experimen-
tal condition who failed to meet or exceed the mean gain
score of those in the comparison condition on the CTOPP PA,
DIBELS NWF, and CTOPP RN were 3 (17%), 1 (6%), and
3 (17%), respectively.
DISCUSSION
The purpose of this study was to assess the outcomes of a co-
hesive and intensive preventive prereading intervention pro-
gram (i.e., Stepping Stones to Literacy) (Nelson, Cooper, &
Gonzalez, 2004). The primary question was what the outcomes
of Stepping Stones are when it is implemented accurately in
school settings. Effects were examined on kindergarten children
children in the experimental group made statistically significant
improvements in their phonological awareness skills, e.g.,
CTOPP PA, F(1, 34) = 10.96, p < .01; word reading skills, i.e.,
DIBELS NWF, F(1, 34) = 17.22, p < .001; and rapid naming
skills, e.g., CTOPP RN, F(1, 34) = 13.95, p < .01, relative to
children in the comparison group.
The effect sizes for the phonological awareness, word read-
ing, and rapid naming measures are presented in Table 2. Effect
sizes were calculated by dividing the difference between the ex-
perimental and comparison group mean change scores by the
pooled standard deviation of the improvement scores (Glass,
McGraw, & Smith, 1981). The obtained estimates were then
corrected for bias due to sample size using a factor provided by
Hedges and Olkin (1985). The 95% confidence bands for the
effect sizes were also computed using percentiles from the stan-
dard normal distribution and the asymptotic variance of the stan-
dardized mean difference (Hedges & Olkin, 1985). Effect size
estimates for the phonological awareness, word reading, and
rapid naming measures were as follows:
1. CTOPP PA = 1.18 (confidence interval = .47 to 1.89),
DIBELS ISF = 1.31 (confidence interval = .59 to 2.02),
and DIBELS PSF = .89 (confidence interval = .20 to 1.57)
2. DIBELS NWF = 1.32 (confidence interval = .60 to 2.05)
3. CTOPP RN = 1.31 (confidence interval = .59 to 2.02) and
DIBELS LNF = .69 (confidence interval = .02 to 1.36).
TABLE 2
Mean Pre-, Post-, and Change Scores, Standard Deviations, F Values, and Estimated Effect Sizes
Experimental Comparison
Construct/measure Pre- Post- Change Pre- Post- Change F(1, 34) ES
Phonological awareness
CTOPP PA 91.3 100.6 9.23 89.0 90.9 1.89 10.96** 1.18
(7.2) (9.4) (6.4) (7.6) (9.6) (5.76)
DIBELS ISF 9.6 16.4 6.81 14.5 11.3 3.20 20.24*** 1.31
(5.2) (7.9) (6.80) (8.8) (7.6) (8.14)
DIBELS PSF 4.4 17.1 12.61 6.8 11.2 4.38 6.72* .89
(7.4) (8.1) (7.28) (10.8) (14.6) (10.61)
Word reading
DIBELS NWF 2.1 12.1 8.94 3.4 3.9 0.50 17.22*** 1.32
(4.1) (10.0) (7.24) (8.7) (7.3) (5.02)
Rapid naming
CTOPP RN 93.2 100.6 7.24 95.5 92.9 2.8 13.95** 1.31
(12.5) (10.0) (7.21) (10.4) (15.0) (7.82)
DIBELS LNF 19.4 29.7 10.28 15.1 19.9 5.0 4.94* .69
(10.5) (10.6) (7.67) (12.7) (16.9) (7.31)
Note. Numbers in parentheses are standard deviations.ES = effect size;CTOPP = Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (Wagner, Torgesen,& Rashotte,
1999); PA = phonological awareness; DIBELS = Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (Good & Kaminski, 2002); ISF = Initial Sound Fluency; PSF =
Phoneme Segmentation Fluency; NWF = Nonsense Word Fluency; RN = Rapid Naming; LNF = Letter Naming Fluency.
*p < .05. * *p < .01. ***p < .001.
10
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
at risk of ED and reading problems. Children who received Step-
ping Stones showed statistically significant gains in their phono-
logical awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills
relative to their counterparts in the comparison condition. The
magnitude of the mean differences (i.e., effect sizes) was edu-
cationally significant (range = 0.69 to 1.31). Effect sizes in the
range of 0 to .3 are considered small, 0.3 to 0.8 moderate, and
0.8 and above large (Cohen, 1988). Only in the case of the
DIBELS PSF and LNF measures did the lower band of the 95%
confidence interval fall in the range considered small. The lower
band of the 95% confidence interval for the remaining measures
fell in the range considered moderate. The upper band of the
95% confidence interval for all of the measures fell in the range
considered large. These findings suggest that Stepping Stones
is an effective prereading intervention for getting children at risk
of ED and reading problems off to a strong start in kindergarten.
The results of the nonresponder analyses increase confi-
dence in this conclusion. A relatively small number of children
who received Stepping Stones were nonresponders. The num-
bers of children in the experimental group who failed to show
satisfactory gains in their phonological awareness, word read-
ing, and rapid naming skills were 3 (17%), 1 (6%), and 3 (17%),
respectively. The range of nonresponders in studies conducted
with effective prereading and word reading interventions con-
ducted with naturally occurring participant samples has ranged
from 5% to 80% (Nelson et al., 2003). The relatively small num-
ber of nonresponders is especially noteworthy given that the
sample of children evinced learner characteristics found to be
strongly related to treatment effectiveness (i.e., ED, phonolog-
ical deficits) (Nelson et al., 2003).
The fact that paraprofessional educators can implement
Stepping Stones reliably provides evidence of its utility. The
tutor self-evaluations of the percentage of program components
implemented correctly exceeded 97%. Independent observa-
tions conducted randomly on a total of 42 tutoring sessions
provided confirmatory evidence that the paraprofessionals im-
plemented the components of Stepping Stones as designed.
These results suggest that schools can use existing levels of re-
sources to implement Stepping Stones with children as young
as those in kindergarten.
The findings from this study corroborate the findings of
Trout and colleagues (2003), who found that kindergarten chil-
dren at risk of ED and reading problems responded positively
to theory- and research-driven explicit reading programs. The
findings of this study add to the literature on prereading inter-
ventions. Our findings suggest that prereading interventions that
focus exclusively on pivotal prereading skills are effective. Chil-
dren showed educationally significant gains in their phonolog-
ical awareness, word reading, and rapid naming skills. Previous
research on prereading interventions conducted with kinder-
garten children included word reading instructional activities
(see Jenkins & O’Connor, 2002, for a review). Our findings also
suggest that it might be important to incorporate rapid naming
instructional activities into prereading and word reading pro-
grams. There is growing research to suggest that rapid naming
problems should be taken as seriously (i.e., diagnostically, in-
structionally) as phonological deficits (Wolf et al., 2000).
It is also interesting to speculate about why Stepping Stones
was found to be a relatively effective prereading interven-
tion. First, it is a manualized intervention. That is, the instruc-
tional prompts and activities are embedded in each lesson.
This increases the ability of educators to implement Stepping
Stones with a high degree of fidelity. In the present study,
paraprofessional-level tutors were able to implement reliably
all of the components of Stepping Stones. Second, a one-to-one
instructional format was used to deliver Stepping Stones. Such
a format increases children’s opportunities to respond. Further-
more, the one-to-one instructional format ensures that children
are responding correctly because any errors can be detected by
educators and corrected immediately. Previous research has
shown that the amount of time a child is successfully engaged
in instructional activities is linked directly to student achieve-
ment (Berliner, 1984). Finally, Stepping Stones includes em-
bedded instructional activities designed to enhance children’s
serial processing skills. Although we did not conduct a compo-
nent analysis, these instructional activities may have enhanced
the treatment outcomes.
Limitations and Future Research
Several limitations to the findings should be addressed by fu-
ture research. First, the sample of children was drawn from one
school district in one geographic location with a limited partic-
ipant sample and may not be representative of the general pop-
ulation of kindergarten children at risk of ED and reading
problems. It is possible that the findings may not generalize to
other students in other geographical regions and diverse popu-
lations. Future research should replicate these findings across
varied contexts and diverse populations including young chil-
dren with identified ED. Second, it is unclear what the long-
term effects of Stepping Stones are on children’s acquisition of
proficient reading skills. Although research has demonstrated
that kindergarten children who can segment into onset-rime
(Stahl & Murray, 1994), isolate two or more phonemes in spo-
ken words (O’Connor, Notari-Syverson, & Vadasy, 1996), or
segment 25 to 35 phonemes per minute in three-phoneme words
(Good, Simmons, & Kame’enui, 2001) are likely to become
successful readers, it is unclear whether this is true in the case
of children at risk of ED and reading problems. Future research
should track children longitudinally to determine whether Step-
ping Stones helps children achieve a high enough proficiency
in prereading skills for successful reading throughout their
school years. Third, related to the former issue, it is unclear to
what extent the magnitude of the outcomes of using Stepping
Stones is influenced by the type of core kindergarten literacy in-
struction offered in the classroom. Teaching children the piv-
otal prereading skills embedded in Stepping Stones may be less
important if they receive explicit and systematic instruction in
phonics. In contrast, if children are in classrooms in which such
instruction is not provided, Stepping Stones may be important.
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
11
Future research should measure systematically the kindergarten
core literacy instruction provided to children to determine its
effect on the treatment outcomes achieved by cohesive and
intensive prereading interventions such as Stepping Stones.
Fourth, Stepping Stones is innovative in that it includes embed-
ded instructional activities designed to enhance children’s ser-
ial processing skills. Although serial processing skills have been
found to play a key role in proficient reading, future research
should ascertain the extent to which they enhance treatment out-
comes. Component analysis research studies would illuminate
the role embedded serial processing instructional activities play
in achieving proficient reading. Fifth, this study should be repli-
cated to determine the effectiveness of a Stepping Stones inter-
vention program at a distance from the lead developer (first
author) and with the same level of support that is currently avail-
able to schools and other organizations. These multisite scala-
bility studies should include field settings that represent varying
types of core reading programs offered to all children and di-
verse student populations. Finally, this study is part of a rela-
tively small body of reading research conducted with children
with or at risk of ED. A comprehensive program of research
should be undertaken to identify the types of core, supplemen-
tary, and intervention programs that work with children with or
at risk of ED and to illuminate the learner and contextual char-
acteristics that influence treatment outcomes. Unfortunately, to
date, there is relatively little research with which to guide edu-
cation decision makers regarding effective literacy practices of
children with ED.
Implications
With these limitations in mind, several implications are evident.
First, cohesive and intensive core, supplementary, and inter-
vention programs that are delivered in a one-to-one instructional
format appear to produce reliable treatment outcomes. The
elements of cohesive and intensive interventions include (a) a
scientifically based scope and sequence that ensure skill acqui-
sition and consolidation, (b) instructional prompts to guide the
teacher, (c) instructional activities to guide the learner, (d) ef-
fective error correction procedures, and (e) progress monitor-
ing strategies. Second, it appears that cohesive and intensive
core, supplementary, and intervention programs should be de-
livered at school entry. There is a growing consensus among ed-
ucators that it is important to identify children at risk of ED and
reading problems in a timely, efficacious manner. Because word
reading interventions offered in first and second grade tend to
be much longer in both number and length of instructional ses-
sions, intervention programs such as Stepping Stones delivered
during the kindergarten year offer the least intrusive opportu-
nity for getting students on the right track for subsequent read-
ing development.
About the Authors
J. RON NELSON, PhD, is an associate professor and codirector of
the Center for At-Risk Children’s Services at the University of Ne-
braska, Lincoln. His current interests include emotional and behavioral
disorders, literacy interventions, and applied intervention research
methodologies. GREGORY J. BENNER, PhD, is an assistant pro-
fessor in special education at the University of Washington–Tacoma.
His research interests include emotional and behavioral disorders and
language development for students with emotional disturbance.
JORGE GONZALEZ, PhD, is an assistant professor in school psy-
chology at Texas A&M University. His current research interests in-
clude emergent literacy and oral language development for Hispanic
migrant preschool populations. Address: J. Ron Nelson, University of
Nebraska, 202 Barkley Center, Lincoln, NE 68583-0732; e-mail:
rnelson8@unl.edu
Authors’ Note
Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by grants from
the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Pro-
grams (No. H324X010010, H324D010013, and H325D990035).
Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S.
Department of Education, and no endorsement should be inferred.
References
Adams, G. L., & Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on direct Instruc-
tion: 25 years beyond DISTAR. Seattle, WA: Educational Achieve-
ment Systems.
Adams, M., Bereiter, C., Carruthers, I., Case, R., Hirshberg, J.,
McKeough, A., et al. (2000). Open court reading. Columbus, OH:
McGraw-Hill.
Allyon, T., Kuhlman, C., & Warzak, W. J. (1982). Programming re-
source room generalization using lucky charms. Child & Family Be-
havior Therapy, 4, 61– 67.
Al Otaiba, S., & Fuchs, D. (2002). Characteristics of children who are
unresponsive to early literacy intervention. Remedial and Special
Education, 23, 300–316.
Berliner, D. C. (1984). The half-full glass: A review of research on
teaching. In P. L., Hosford (Ed.), Using what we know about teach-
ing (pp. 51–77). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development.
Burns, M. S., Griffin, P., & Snow, C. E. (Eds.). (1999). Starting out
right: A guide to promoting children’s reading success. Washington,
DC: National Academy Press.
Catts, H. W., Fey, M. E., Zhang, X., & Tomblin, J. B. (1999). Language
basis of reading and reading disabilities: Evidence from a longitu-
dinal investigation. Scientific Studies of Reading, 3, 331–362.
Cochran, L., Feng, H., Cartledge, G., & Hamilton, S. (1993). The ef-
fects of cross-age tutoring on the academic achievement, social be-
haviors, and self-perceptions of low-achieving African-American
males with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 18, 292–
302.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences
(2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Compton, D. L. (2003). Modeling the relationship between growth in
rapid naming speed and growth in decoding skill in first grade chil-
dren. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 225–240.
Davis, C. J., Gayan, J., Knopik, V. S., Smith, S. D., Cardon, L. R., Pen-
nington, B. F., et al. (2001). Etiology of reading difficulties and rapid
naming: The Colorado twin study of reading disability. Behavior
Genetics, 31, 625–636.
12
JOURNAL OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS, SPRING 2005, VOL. 13, NO. 1
Engelmann, S., & Bruner, E. C. (1988). Reading Mastery I. Chicago,
IL: Science Research Associates.
Falk, K. B., & Wehby, J. H. (2001). The effects of Peer-Assisted Learn-
ing Strategies on the beginning reading skills of young children with
emotional or behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 26, 344
359.
Fuchs, L., Fuchs, D., Yazdian, L., & Powell, S. R. (2002). Enhancing
first-grade children’s mathematical development with Peer-Assisted
Learning Strategies. School Psychology Review, 31, 453–458.
Glass, G. V., McGraw, B., & Smith, M. L. (1981). Meta-analysis in so-
cial research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Good, R. H., & Kaminski, R. A. (Eds.). (2002). Dynamic Indicators of
Basic Early Literacy Skills (6th ed.). Eugene, OR: Institute for the
Development of Educational Achievement. Available from http://
dibels.uoregon.edu.
Good, R. H., Simmons, D., & Kame’enui, E. (2001). The importance
and decision-making utility and a continuum of fluency-based indi-
cators of foundational skills for third-grade high-stakes outcomes.
Scientific Studies in Reading, 5, 257–288.
Greenbaum, P. E., Dedrick, R. F., Friedman, R. M., Kutash, K., Brown,
E. C., Lardierh, S. P., et al. (1996). National Adolescent and Child
Treatment Study (NACTS): Outcomes for children with serious
emotional and behavioral disturbance. Journal of Emotional and Be-
havioral Disorders, 4, 130–146.
Hedges, L. V., & Olkin, I. (1985). Statistical methods for meta-analysis.
San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Hintze, J. M., Ryan, A. L., & Stoner, G. (2002). Concurrent validity
and diagnostic accuracy of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early
Literacy Skills. Available from http://dibels.uoregon.edu
Jenkins, J. R., & O’Connor, R. (2002). Early identification and inter-
vention for young children with reading/learning disabilities. In
R. Bradley, L. Danielson, & D. P. Hallahan (Eds.), Identification of
learning disabilities: Research to practice (pp. 99–151). Mahwah,
NJ: Erlbaum.
Lane, K. L. (1999). Young students at risk for antisocial behavior: The
utility of academic and social skills interventions. Journal of Emo-
tional and Behavioral Disorders, 7, 211–223.
Lane, K. L., O’Shaughnessy, T. E., Lambros, K. M., Gresham, F. M.,
& Beebe-Frankenberger, M. E. (2001). The efficacy of phonologi-
cal awareness training with first-grade students who have behavior
problems and reading difficulties. Journal of Emotional and Be-
havioral Disorders, 9(4), 219–231.
Lane, K. L., Wehby, J. H., Menzies, H. M., Gregg, R. M., Doukas,
G. L., & Munton, S. M. (2002). Early literacy instruction for first-
grade students at risk for antisocial behavior. Education and Treat-
ment of Children, 25, 438–458.
Martella, R. C., Nelson, J. R., & Marchand-Martella, N. E. (1999). Re-
search methods: Learning to become a critical research consumer.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Mattison, R. E., Spitznagel, E. L., & Felix, B. C. (1998). Enrollment
predictors of the special education outcome for students with SED.
Behavioral Disorders, 23, 243–256.
McCurdy, B. L., Cundari, L., & Lentz, F. E. (1990). Enhancing in-
structional efficiency: An examination of time delay and the oppor-
tunity to observe instruction. Education and Treatment of Children,
13, 226–238.
McLaughlin, T. F. (1992). Effects of written feedback in reading on
behaviorally disordered students. Journal of Educational Research,
85, 312–316.
Meadows, N. B., Neel, R. S., Scott, C. M., & Parker, G. (1994). Aca-
demic performance, social competence, and mainstream accommo-
dations: A look at mainstreamed and non-mainstreamed students
with serious behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 19, 170
180.
Mercer, C. D., & Campbell, K. U. (1998). Great leaps reading pro-
gram. Gainesville, FL: Diarmuid.
National Academy of Sciences. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties
in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000).
Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read:
An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature
on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction: Reports of
the Subgroups (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office.
Nelson, J. R., Benner, G. J., & Gonzalez, J. (2003). Learner charac-
teristics that influence the treatment effectiveness of early literacy
interventions: A meta analytic review. Learning Disabilities Re-
search & Practice, 18, 255–267.
Nelson, J. R., Benner, G. J., Lane, K. L., & Smith, B. (2004). An in-
vestigation of the academic achievement of K-12 children with emo-
tional disturbance in public school settings. Exceptional Children,
71, 59–73.
Nelson, J. R., Cooper, P., & Gonzalez, G. E. (2004). Stepping Stones
to Literacy. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
O’Connor, R., Notari-Syverson, A., & Vadasy, P. F. (1996). Ladders to
literacy:The effects of teacher-led phonological activities for kinder-
garten children with and without disabilities. Exceptional Children,
63, 117–130.
Shisler, L., Top, B. L., & Osguthorpe, R. T. (1986). The effects of read-
ing intervention on children with behavioral disorders. British Co-
lumbia Journal of Special Education, 10, 101–117.
Simmons, D., & Kame’enui, E. (2003, March). A consumer’s guide to
evaluating a core reading program grades K-3: A critical elements
analysis. Eugene: University of Oregon, College of Education, In-
stitute for the Development of Educational Achievement.
Stahl, S. A., & Murray, B. A. (1994). Defining phonological awareness
and its relationship to early reading. Journal of Educational Psy-
chology, 86, 221–234.
Trout, A. L., Epstein, M. H., Mickelson, W. T., Nelson, J. R., & Lewis,
L. M. (2003). Effects of a reading intervention for kindergarten stu-
dents at-risk of emotional disturbance and reading deficits. Behav-
ioral Disorders, 28, 313–326.
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Compre-
hensive Test of Phonological Processing. Longmont, CO: Sopris
West.
Walker, H. M., Severson, H. H., & Feil, E. (1995). The Early Screen-
ing Project. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
Weckerly, J., Wulfeck, B., & Reilly, J. (2001). Verbal fluency deficits
in children with specific language impairment: Slow rapid naming
of slow name? Child Neuropsychology, 7, 142–153.
Wehby, J. H., Falk, K. B., Lane, K. L., Barton-Arwood, S., & Cooley,
C. (2003). The impact of comprehensive reading instruction on the
academic and social behavior of students with emotional and be-
havioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,
11, 239–248.
Wolf, M., Bowers, P. G., & Biddle, K. (2000). Naming-speed
processes, timing, and reading: A conceptual review. Journal of
Learning Disabilities, 33(4), 387–407.
Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3: 68–92, 2010
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1934-5747 print / 1934-5739 online
DOI: 10.1080/19345740903381031
The Efficacy of Supplemental Early Literacy
Instruction by Community-Based Tutors
for Preschoolers Enrolled in Head Start
J. Ron Nelson
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Elizabeth A. Sanders
Washington Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA
Jorge Gonzalez
Educational Psychology, Texas A&M, College Station, Texas, USA
Abstract: The purpose of the current study was to test the efficacy of a supple-
mental phonological awareness focused intervention delivered by community-based
paraeducators with preschool children (M = 4.73 years) in eight Head Start classrooms
in the rural Midwest. Participating children were randomly assigned to small groups
within classrooms, which were in turn were randomly assigned to receive either treat-
ment or control (vocabulary-focused storybook reading) instruction in small groups for
20 min/day, 5 days/week, for 10 weeks (February–April). All instruction was deliv-
ered by community-based paraeducator tutors. At posttest, treatment students (n = 41)
outperformed controls (n = 47) on measures of alphabetic knowledge (d = 1.22) and
phonological awareness (d = .62). No significant differences between conditions were
detected on print awareness or vocabulary. Overall, the results demonstrate that at-risk
preschoolers benefit from community-based paraeducator implemented supplemental
phonological awareness and alphabetic knowledge instruction.
Keywords: Phonological awareness, reading, emergent literacy, preschool, Head Start,
multilevel modeling, randomized trial
A large body of evidence documents the presence of a cluster of phono-
logical processing abilities (PPA) in preschool that are remarkably stable from
the late preschool period onward and predictive of beginning reading (Lonigan,
2006; Wagner, Torgesen, Laughon, Simmons, & Rashotte, 1993). These abil-
ities are uniquely related to—and play a special role in—preschool children’s
emergent literacy even after controlling for other cognitive abilities (Anthony,
Address correspondence to J. Ron Nelson, 202 Barkley Center, Lincoln, NE 68583-
0732, USA. E-mail: rnelson8@unl.edu
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 69
Williams, McDonald, & Francis, 2007). It is now well established that deficits in
PPA are a prominent feature of numerous reading problems (Smith, Simmons,
& Kame’enui, 1998), and in the absence of intervention these problems be-
come more difficult to remediate over time, beginning in kindergarten (Lonigan
et al., 2009).
PPA is composed of three interrelated abilities: phonological awareness,
phonological memory, and lexical access (Anthony et al., 2007; Burgess, 2006;
Lonigan, 2006; Phillips, Clancy-Menchetti, & Lonigan, 2008; Smith et al.,
1998; Wagner, 1988). Phonological awareness is defined as a child’s ability to
detect and manipulate the sound structures in oral language (Ehri, 1989) and is
often measured by tasks that require matching, blending, deleting, or counting
sounds in words (Lonigan, 2007; Lonigan et al., 2009). Phonological memory
refers to the temporary storage of sound-based information and is generally
measured by immediate recall of material presented orally (i.e., list learning).
Finally, lexical access (e.g., rapid automatized naming) relates to efficiency in
retrieving phonological codes from secondary (long-term) memory and is typi-
cally assessed by the speed at which an array of letters, colors, objects or digits
can be named (Anthony et al., 2007; Wolf, 1984; Wolf, Bally, & Morris, 1986).
Studies have documented that PPA are (a) distinguishable from other cognitive
abilities, (b) distinguishable from each other, (c) covary with emergent literacy
at different points in development, (d) are causally related to the acquisition of
beginning reading skills, and (e) demonstrate remarkable longitudinal stability
(Anthony et al., 2007; Lonigan, 2007; Stahl & Murray, 2006).
PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS AND READING ACQUISITION
Among PPA, the most extensively researched has been phonological awareness
(PA). Children who show facility in recognizing and manipulating the sound
structures in spoken words learn to read earlier and better than less able peers,
even after other variables such as receptive and expressive vocabulary, work-
ing memory, and socioeconomic status variables were controlled for (Loni-
gan, 2006; Share, Jorm, Maclean, & Matthews, 1984; Vellutino & Scanlon,
1987). Most recently, the National Early Literacy Panel’s (National Institute for
Literacy, 2008) extensive synthesis of research on predictors of early literacy
found strong evidence for the role of PA in word reading and moderate evidence
supporting the role of PA in later reading comprehension (Lonigan, 2007).
Rigorously designed cross-sectional and longitudinal studies by Wagner and
colleagues (Wagner, 1988; Wagner & Torgesen, 1987; Wagner, Torgesen, &
Rashotte, 1994; Wagner et al., 1993) also show that from among the array of
early literacy skills, PA is most predictive of individual differences in word
reading.
Identifying the origins and antecedents of PA has, however, proven incon-
clusive so far (Lonigan, 2007). Using data from a longitudinal epidemiological
70 J. R. Nelson et al.
study, Shaywitz, Lyon, and Shaywitz (2006) found evidence for neurological
basis of persistently poor readers. Furthermore, these readers were found to
come from families with lower socioeconomic status and often attended more
impoverished disadvantaged schools. As such, it follows that poorer readers
are likely the product of a double disadvantage in both less rich home language
experiences and ineffective reading instruction in more impoverished schools.
Presumably, this disadvantage translates into differences in poorer levels of
school readiness (Farver, Xu, Eppe, & Lonigan, 2006), especially at lower
ability and income levels or culturally diverse backgrounds. In fact, Shaywitz
et al. provided compelling evidence for an environmentally influenced type of
reading disability that is also consistent with the growing evidence that many
children labeled poor readers are in fact “instructional casualties.”
Investigations in the primary grades do suggest, however, that at-risk chil-
dren can benefit from developmentally appropriate instruction designed to teach
PA through the use of meta-linguistic games and activities (e.g., rhyming words
in songs, identifying or locating objects using letter-sound clues, clapping to
mark syllables, sound segmenting; Craig, 2006). For example, Ehri and Wilce
(1987) compared kindergarten novice readers (i.e., students who knew most
letter names, some letter sounds, and between 3 and 15 words) who received
“cue-reading” instruction (making explicit the visual formation of words) to
those who received “cipher-reading” instruction (making explicit the letter-
sound correspondences in orthographically correct nonsense words—a blend
of PA and alphabetic training). At posttest, students in the cipher-reading group
significantly outperformed their matched peers on decoding and spelling mea-
sures. Perhaps more convincingly, Ball and Blachman (1988) conducted one of
the first randomized experiments on PA effects with kindergarten “pre-readers”
(performance of less than three words on a standardized word reading test)
and found that, after 7 weeks, kindergarteners in the PA group were signifi-
cantly higher on PA and word reading than peers who received no training or
language training (vocabulary building, story listening, letter-sound training).
More relevant to the present investigation are studies of preschool children
with phonologically based speech impairments treated in language, speech,
and hearing settings. Although primarily single-subject or small sample size
designs, and researchers-as-interventionists, this group of studies show im-
pressive gains for phonological sensitivity, rhyme ability, initial sound, and
phoneme awareness (Gillam & van Kleeck, 1996; Gillon, 2005; Laing &
Espeland, 2005; Ziolkowski & Goldstein, 2008). Finally, in one of the few
studies of PA training with preschool children, Byrne and Fielding-Barnsley
(1991) assigned preschoolers to a treatment (i.e., recognition of phoneme iden-
tification activities) or control (i.e., semantic activities). The results showed
that preschool children in the treatment condition showed improvements in PA
and alphabetic knowledge relative to those in the control condition.
Despite the empirical support for the efficacy of PA instruction, recent
observations of preschool classroom environments reveal, a paucity of such
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 71
instruction occurring in practice (Phillips et al., 2008). It appears that effective
early literacy instruction that includes a focus on PA instruction is often not a
part of preschool instruction. This finding has important educational implica-
tions and suggests that it may be beneficial to provide preschool intervention
that bolsters PA in children at-risk for reading problems.
COMPONENTS OF EFFECTIVE PA INSTRUCTION
In addition to demonstrating that PA training can improve children’s early
reading skills, much has also been learned about the structure and content of
effective PA interventions. Studies show that the most effective interventions
involve small groups (i.e., three to five children each); take place early in chil-
dren’s schooling; are relatively short; and focus on identifying, manipulating,
and producing sounds (Leafstedt, Richards, & Gerber, 2004).
CURRENT STUDY
Broadly, the current study contributes to the growing body of evidence sup-
porting the positive effects of PA interventions for preschoolers, demonstrating
that PA instruction need not be postponed until kindergarten (Phillips et al.,
2008). Specifically, the current study addresses the paucity of research on PA
training in preschool by testing the efficacy of a supplemental cohesive and
explicit PA-focused intervention (Stepping Stones to Literacy; Nelson, Cooper,
& Gonzalez, 2004) that has been shown in previous studies to improve PA and
alphabetic knowledge of at-risk kindergarteners (Nelson, Benner, & Gonza-
lez, 2005; Nelson, Stage, Epstein, & Pierce, 2005). Stepping Stones includes
a number of instructional design principles to improve its effectiveness and
feasibility. First, the PA concepts are organized into a sequential scope and
sequence to ensure that perquisite and easy PA concepts are taught first. The
easier PA concepts of rhyme identification and generation, word segmenta-
tion, syllable blending, and onset-rime blending are taught sequentially before
more difficult PA concepts (e.g., phoneme deletion, identification, segmenta-
tion, change). Second, predictable instructional formats are used to ensure that
both children and teachers become familiar with the routine and their respective
roles. The format not only guides the way teachers present the PA concepts
(i.e., suggested instructional prompts are provided) but also provides the nec-
essary instruction stimuli needed to teach the lessons. Finally, the intervention
includes an alphabet knowledge component designed to improve children’s
ability to accurately and fluently name letters. Accumulated research suggests
that the ease or fluency with which children can name letters gives them an
advantage in learning to read (Speer & Lamb, 1976; Stanovich, Cunningham,
& Cramer, 1984; Tunmer, Herriman, & Nesdale, 1988).
72 J. R. Nelson et al.
Second, the current study employs community-based paraeducator tu-
tors as interventionists and, in so doing, extends other early K-1 reading
research showing that paraeducators can deliver supplemental early reading
interventions with a high degree of fidelity, particularly if the interventions
are well scripted for noncertificated teachers’ use (Foorman, Francis, Fletcher,
Schatschneider, & Mehta, 1998; Gunn, Smolkowski, Biglan, & Black, 2002;
Vadasy & Sanders, 2008a, 2008b; Vadasy, Sanders, & Peyton, 2006). As pre-
viously noted, Stepping Stones includes such attributes. Indeed, Whitehurst
(2002) argued that high fidelity to evidence-based curricula overpowers the
effects of teacher background on student achievement.
Finally, we chose to use a modified form of Interactive Book Reading
(Wasik & Bond, 2001; Wasik, Bond, & Hindman, 2006) as our comparison
(control) condition to (a) control for supplemental instruction time and con-
sistency, and (b) provide an alternative intervention approach appropriate for
preschoolers. Indeed, studies support the benefit of interactive storybook read-
ing for building emergent literacy skills (Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Justice,
Meier, & Walpole, 2005); however, supplemental instruction that focuses on
vocabulary acquisition has not, to date, been tested against explicit supplemen-
tal instruction in PA-focused instruction with diverse (i.e., low socioeconomic,
limited English proficiency) preschool children. Thus, this study also provides
information regarding the relative impact of two approaches on preschoolers’
PA and alphabetic and vocabulary knowledge.
The primary research questions for the current study were, (a) does a
supplemental PA focused intervention implemented by paraeducators have a
direct, positive impact on at-risk preschool children’s literacy outcomes and
(b) does the intervention have a unique impact on children’s outcomes, after
controlling for pretest skill, classroom and home literacy environments, and
treatment fidelity?
METHOD
Participants
A cluster randomized trial research design was used to assess the efficacy of
a PA-focused early literacy intervention program, Stepping Stones to Liter-
acy (Nelson et al., 2004; treatment), compared to an alternative supplemental
vocabulary-focused intervention (modified Interactive Book Reading; control).
Eight Head Start classrooms from rural Midwest communities agreed to par-
ticipate in the study. All children whose teachers believed the interventions
were appropriate were recruited to participate. Our consent procedures allowed
teachers to exclude those children they believed would not benefit from the
interventions. All children were recruited to participate with the exception of
those experiencing significant learning and/or behavioral difficulties (n = 4).
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 73
Parent consent was then obtained prior to pretest. Within classrooms, partici-
pating children were randomly assigned to small groups (there were 2 to 4 small
groups per classroom), and then small groups comprising 2 to 6 children each
(with an average of 3 preschoolers per small group) were randomly assigned
to receive supplemental small-group instruction in either the treatment or the
control program. After attrition of 11 children (5 treatment and 6 controls due
to moving out of the program), there were 41 treatment children (across 13
small groups) and 47 controls (across 14 small groups).
Children were individually assessed prior to intervention (pretest) and
just after intervention (posttest) on measures of print awareness, alphabetic
knowledge, phonological awareness, and definitional vocabulary by trained
research staff blind to experimental conditions. In addition to assessing children
on literacy outcomes, we collected information on home and classroom literacy
environments as well as treatment dosage and fidelity. Children averaged 57.08
months old (SD = 4.28) at pretest and included 46 (52%) male, 67 (76%)
children of color, and 44 (50%) children whose parents spoke a language other
than English at home. Intervention conditions did not significantly differ on
any of these demographic characteristics (all chi-square test p values > .10).
Intervention Conditions
Tutor instruction was provided to children 20 min per day, 5 days per week, over
10 weeks, February to April. To reduce treatment diffusion, one tutor/tutor team
per condition was assigned to each Head Start classroom; as such there were
eight tutor/tutor teams. All tutors were recruited from each of the respective
communities served by the Head Start centers via flyers and classified ads in
local papers. All tutors were female, had completed high school, and had no
teaching experience. As such, there were no detectible differences between
conditions on tutor/tutor team characteristics.
Training. We used the same professional development procedures to train tu-
tors to implement the instructional components of the treatment and control
conditions correctly. The half-day staff development process was five-pronged:
(a) research staff provided an overview of the theory, research base, rationale,
and implementation format for the programs; (b) research staff modeled and
practiced the implementation activities with tutors; (c) simulated practice con-
ditions using the instructional materials were conducted to ensure that a high
level of skill performance was obtained by staff; (d) research staff provided
structured feedback to tutors on their proficiency; and (e) research staff mon-
itored treatment fidelity and provided corrective feedback when applicable to
ensure high-quality implementation. More specifically, the first two lessons
delivered by tutors were observed by project staff who provided corrective
feedback to ensure treatment fidelity. The tutors were then observed by project
74 J. R. Nelson et al.
three additional times (see the Intervention Fidelity section) to assess treat-
ment fidelity. Following each observation, if applicable, project staff provided
corrective feedback to the tutors.
Treatment (PA-focused intervention) condition. On average, 29.39 (SD = 6.10)
instructional sessions were required to complete the 25 treatment lessons. The
treatment program is a cohesive (i.e., sequential scope and sequence of skills,
explicit instruction practices) and intensive supplementary early literacy inter-
vention for young children who are at risk for developing reading difficulties.
It consists of one lesson book and a separate section within the lesson book on
serial rapid automatic naming (activities that provide children practice making
quick visual–verbal associations of known sets of colors and numbers in a
left-to-right format).
During daily sessions of 20 min in length, small groups of children were
guided by a paraeducator through a set of instructional activities designed
to promote children’s PA and alphabet knowledge. Additional instructional
activities are used in the initial 14 lessons to promote children’s listening
comprehension skills and understanding of the meanings of sentences/short
stories (i.e., listen for who is doing something and what they are doing). Note
that instruction in alphabet knowledge occurs over the entire instructional
sequence. In addition, the instructional formats are held constant across the 25
lessons and guide the educator through each of the instructional activities (i.e.,
soft scripted) and all of the necessary instructional stimuli are included (see
Figure 1 for example lesson).
Control (vocabulary-focused intervention) condition. On average, children
participated in 31.06 (SD = 4.89) instructional sessions in the modified In-
teractive Book Reading (control) condition (the two treatments did not differ
in the number of sessions completed, t test p value > .10). This program
was based in part on Interactive Book Reading (Wasik & Bond, 2001; Wasik
et al., 2006). Although storybooks linked to themes (e.g., weather) and the
same three-step instructional sequence are used in both instructional ap-
proaches, pictures and guiding prompts were used in the control condition
to introduce, engage and motivate, encourage explanations, and support in-
dependent use of word meanings (rather than a prop box as in the case of
Interactive Book Reading).
During daily sessions of 20 min in length, instruction was organized around
an identified target and two conceptually connected words drawn from a sto-
rybook related to a classroom teacher-identified theme. Classroom teachers
identified 20 different themes (e.g., transportation, dental, emotions, and di-
nosaurs) across the eight Head Start centers, and then research staff identified
commonly used (and age-appropriate) storybooks for each theme. Thus, the
themes used across the Head Start centers varied depending upon those be-
ing used by each respective teacher during the study period. The target and
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 75
Figure 1. Stepping Stones to Literacy (treatment) example lesson.
Source: 202 Barkley Memorial Center P.O. Box 830732/Lincoln, NE 68583-
0732/(402)472-3956/Fax (402) 472-7697. Reprinted with permission.
conceptually connected words naturally occurred one or more times in the
storybook. Two example themes (i.e., mail, shopping) and associated story-
books (including authors and page numbers), target and conceptually connected
words, and associated word meanings are presented in Table 1. Tutors used the
identified storybook and associated picture cards (5 × 8 index cards with pic-
tures depicting the target and conceptually connected word meanings on the
front and age-appropriate word meaning, suggested sentence using the word
in context, and initial interactive prompt question on the back) in conjunction
with the below three-pronged instructional sequence. A separate card was used
for the target word and conceptually connected words.
Table 1 . Example themes for control condition (enhanced interactive storybook reading)
Theme Author Book Pages Target Word: Definition Connective Word: Definition
Mail Brown, Marc Arthur Loses a Friend 1–11 Mail: letters and cards Send: to mail off
Stamp: an imprint
12–24 Forget: not to remember Appointment: a set date
Pal: a friend
Kottke, Jan A Day with a Mail Carrier All Letter: written message Sign: write your name
Paper: stuff you write on
Shopping Sadler, Marilyn Money, Money, Honey Bunny! All Buy: get by paying price Market: where goods are sold
Pay: to give out money
Rau, Dana Meachen My Favorite Foods All Count: tell how many Number: how many; the total
Favorite: best liked
Maccarone, Grace I Shop with My Daddy All Take: to accept Put: to place
Both: one and the other
76
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 77
Paraeducators used an interactive dialogic reading approach across the
three-pronged instructional sequence (see Whitehurst et al., 1994, for a more
thorough description) to actively engage children and help them to develop
an understanding of the target an conceptually connected word meanings. The
three-pronged sequence included the following:
1. Paraeducators used the cards to introduce and define the target and concep-
tually connected words before reading the storybook,
2. Paraeducators asked open-ended questions connected to the target and
conceptually connected words during and after reading the storybook,
and
3. Paraeducators provided opportunities for children to use the target word and
conceptually connected words independently after reading the storybook.
Intervention Fidelity
Each tutor (n = 8 per condition) was observed by research staff during an
intervention session on three equidistant occasions (once per week). To record
intervention fidelity, tutors in both conditions were rated on a 5-point behav-
ior frequency scale ranging from 0 (never)to4(proficient) on each relevant
instructional practice. The eight instructional practices rated for the treatment
condition included the following: (a) Presentation manual was visible to all
children during the lesson, (b) all children were actively engaged during the
lesson, (c) positive praise statements were used during the lesson, (d) responses
were modeled, (e) adequate practice opportunities were provided, (f) prescribed
sequence of instructional activities was followed, (g) prescribed instructional
directions for each activity were used, and (h) the use of a combination of
group and individual responses. The nine instructional practices rated for the
control condition included the following: (a) Storybook and pictures were vis-
ible to all children; (b) all children were actively engaged during the lesson;
(c) pictures were used to introduce target and conceptually connected words;
(d) initial prompt questions about the target and conceptually connected words
were used; (e) responses of children around target and conceptually connected
words were evaluated, rephrased, and expanded on during storybook reading;
(f) the storybook was introduced using title and author; (g) the children were
engaged about literacy related topics; (h) the children were engaged about the
target and conceptually connected words; and (i) responses of children around
literacy related concepts were evaluated, rephrased, and expanded on during
storybook reading. Across instructional practice categories for each interven-
tion, a mean was computed; these means were then averaged across the three
observation occasions to obtain an intervention fidelity score, which was then
applied to each respective small group.
78 J. R. Nelson et al.
Table 2 . Classroom literacy environment means and standard deviations
Instructional Category MSDMinimum Maximum
Daily literacy instruction
(minutes)
52.50 14.88 30 70
Word reading 19.38 14.25 5 45
Comprehension 15.00 10.69 0 30
Vo c a b u l a r y 1 0 .63 12.08 0 30
Writing 13.13 8.84 0 30
Listening 21.25 29.00 0 90
Spelling 7.50 6.55 0 15
Note. N = 8 Head Start classroom teachers, each with small groups in both interven-
tion conditions; all data are self-report, and literacy instruction categories overlap.
Classroom Literacy Environment
To describe and quantify the classroom literacy environment of children par-
ticipating in the study, we briefly surveyed all participating classroom teachers
(n = 8) on their teaching qualifications and their perceived classroom literacy
practices at the beginning of the intervention in February. More than half (n =
5; 63%) reported having obtained a bachelor’s degree (others reported having
earned associate’s degrees in early childhood education). Four of those who had
obtained a bachelor’s degree were also state certificated (n = 3 were certified
K-8 regular education and n = 1 was certified special education). Teaching
experience averaged 3.25 years (SD = 2.38). Means and standard deviations
for reported classroom literacy instruction practices are provided in Table 2
(note that instructional categories are overlapping). Because we anticipated
that Head Start preschool teachers would not be able to differentiate between
literacy instruction categories well, we used teachers’ total literacy instruction
minutes as the best indicator of classroom literacy environment for our child
outcome models (see Results section).
Home Literacy Environment
A parent questionnaire was used to assess family home literacy environment
(Griffin & Morrison, 1997). Of the 88 children who completed the study, only 1
child’s parent declined to participate in the survey. In Table 3 on the following
page we report descriptive statistics, including response rates, for each survey
item. When we compared the two intervention conditions on each item, we
found no significant differences between groups (all t-test p values > .10). To
create a single, standardized indicator of home literacy environment for our
child outcome models, we grand-mean centered each of the 12 items (because
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 79
Table 3 . Home literacy environment means and standard deviations
Treatment
a
Control
b
Survey Item M SD Min Max M SD Min Max
No. of times at library 0.65 0.83 0 3 0.60 0.97 0 4
No. of times reading newspaper 0.25 0.74 0 4 0.34 0.52 0 2
No. of magazines read by parent 0.35 0.74 0 4 0.43 0.74 0 4
No. of magazines read by child 0.20 0.46 0 2 0.26 0.57 0 2
Amount of reading weekly, mother 2.69 0.92 1 4 2.81 1.08 1 4
How often child is read to by adult 3.05 0.77 1 4 3.24 0.74 1 4
No. of books owned 2.18 0.73 1 3 2.12 0.79 1 3
How often child taught word reading 2.05 1.23 0 4 1.96 1.28 0 4
How often child taught printing 1.74 1.16 0 4 1.53 1.18 0 4
How often child asks to be read to 2.64 1.39 0 4 2.36 1.50 0 4
How often child pretends to read 3.18 1.17 0 4 2.81 1.39 0 4
How often child pretends to write 3.36 0.90 1 4 3.00 1.22 0 4
Note. N = 87 home literacy surveys returned (responses from one parent of child in
the Stepping Stones to Literacy condition were entirely missing); all data are self-report
rating scales.
a
n = 40.
b
n = 47.
different rating scales were used across items) and then averaged across all
items to maximize the information available.
Child Assessments
Abilities hypothesized to contribute to or correlate with the early reading skills
were assessed at pretest (February) and posttest (late April) and included mea-
sures of print awareness, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, and
definitional vocabulary. Tests were individually administered by testers who
were unaware of student group assignment. Testers were trained and super-
vised by research staff to administer assessments according to protocols. Train-
ing included explaining, modeling, and supervised independent practice on
each measure. In the measure descriptions that follow, published reliabilities
for each measure are provided, as well as sample reliabilities (internal consis-
tencies are Cronbach’s alpha). Raw scores (total number correct) were used in
all analyses.
1. At pretest only (for the purpose of describing the sample) we measured
receptive language using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test–IIIA (PPVT;
Dunn & Dunn, 2006). Children are asked to select from a set of pictures a
picture that best matches the meaning of an orally presented word. Testing
80 J. R. Nelson et al.
begins with the items set corresponding to the child’s age and is discontinued
after 8 of 12 items are missed within a set. Internal consistency reported in
the test manual averages .94 for 3- to 5-year-olds; internal consistency for
our sample was .97.
2. Print awareness was assessed using the total number of correct items on
Section A from Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL; Lonigan, Wagner,
& Torgesen, 2007) Print Knowledge subtest. This section asks children to
select the picture/item (from a set of four) that matches an orally presented
stimulus. For one item, as an example, the child is shown a set of four
pictures (one of which shows a word) and is asked to Find the picture
that has letters in it.” Most items involve discriminating the picture with
letters or words from among pictures of numbers and/or symbols. Items are
administered in increasing difficulty. Testing begins at Item 1 and continues
until the child finishes all 12 items or until the child makes three consecutive
errors. Internal consistency for our sample was .87 and .91 at pretest and
posttest, respectively.
3. Alphabetic knowledge was assessed using the number of correct responses
on Sections B and C from the TOPEL Print Knowledge subtest. In Section
B, the child is asked to identify from a set of four letters the letter that
matches orally presented letter names and sounds (e.g., Which one is
‘M’? and Which one makes the /b/ sound?”). Testing begins at Item 1
and continues until the child finishes all 10 items in the section or until the
child makes three consecutive incorrect responses. In Section C, the child
is asked to point to each letter arranged on a card and say either the name
(10 items) or sound (4 items) of the letter. Again, testing begins at Item
1 and continues until the child misses three consecutive items or until all
14 items are administered. Items are administered in increasing difficulty.
Across Sections B and C, there are 24 possible points. Across Sections A,
B, and C, the average reliability for 3- to 5-year olds reported in the TOPEL
test manual for this subtest is .95. Internal consistency for our sample was
.96 and .97 at pretest and posttest, respectively.
4. Phonological awareness was measured using the TOPEL Phonological
Awareness subtest, which includes both deletion and blending tasks. In
the first half of the subtest, children are asked to listen to a stimulus word
and then to either point to the picture that corresponds to the word without
one part (i.e., deleting either a syllable for two-syllable words, or a single
sound for one-syllable words) or say the word without one part (no picture
cues are provided for this section). In the second half of the subtest, children
are orally presented with two single-syllable words, or two or three sounds,
separated by a pause, and are asked to either point to the picture that corre-
sponds to the word represented by blending the syllables or sounds together,
or to say the new word aloud (no picture cues are provided for these items).
Items are administered in increasing difficulty. There are four sections, and
for each section, testing begins at the first item and continues until the child
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 81
makes three consecutive errors or until all items are administered. The raw
score is the number correct out of 27 possible points. Internal consistency
reported in the examiner’s manual for 3- to 5-year-olds averages .87. In-
ternal consistency for our sample was .89 and .91 at pretest and posttest,
respectively.
5. Vocabulary was measured with the TOPEL Definitional Vocabulary subtest.
This subtest comprises two sections: In the first section, children are shown
an illustration and are asked to name the object that the tester points to (e.g.,
What is this?”) and then provide the function of the object (e.g., What is it
for?”). The second section asks the child to provide the word that describes
the common theme across a set of four pictures (e.g., What can all of these
do?”or“What is a name for all of these?”) and then to provide the function
associated with the word. Each item in both sections is worth 2 points (one
for the object name and one for the object function). Testing begins at the
first item and is discontinued until the child misses both questions of three
consecutive items. With 35 items, the raw score is the total correct out of 70.
Internal consistency reported in the examiner’s manual for 3- to 5-year-olds
averages .94. Internal consistency for our sample was .96 for both pretest
and posttest.
RESULTS
Analytic Methods
Because of the complex nature of the child outcome data, we used multilevel
modeling to analyze intervention condition differences. Because children re-
ceived intervention in small groups within classrooms, two inherent nesting
structures were present: Children within a given small group are likely to have
more similar instructional experiences than children in other small groups, and
small groups were more likely to be more similar to one another if they were
drawn from the same classroom compared to other classrooms. Consequently,
scores from children and small groups were not treated as independent (as
assumed in classic t and F tests): To ignore this nonindependence would yield
potentially biased parameter estimates as well as degrees of freedom that are
too large, resulting in Type I error inflation (cf. Hox, 2002, pp. 5–6).
We thus used multilevel modeling to analyze child outcomes. Specifically,
we used two models. First, we tested for direct effects using a simple three-level
model in which children’s scores (Level 1) are nested in small groups (Level 2),
which are in turn nested in classrooms (Level 3). Intervention condition was
dummy coded (1 = treatment, 0 = control) as a small-group level predictor.
The general three-level model for testing the direct treatment effects (our first
research question) is as follows: Y
ijk
= γ
000
+ γ
010
* Condition
jk
+ u
0jk
+
u
00k
+ e
ijk
, where Y = test score of the ith child in the jth small group in the kth
82 J. R. Nelson et al.
classroom; γ
000
= conditional grand mean test score, γ
01
= Treatment effect,
u
0jk
= residual between the child’s small group mean and the mean across
small groups within classrooms, u
00k
= residual between the child’s classroom
mean and the mean across classrooms, and e
ijk
= unexplained residual. In
our second set of models (to test for unique treatment effects), we simulta-
neously added four covariates, all grand-mean centered, including respective
child pretest, child’s home literacy environment (mean across 12 items on home
literacy survey), small-group treatment fidelity, and classroom literacy envi-
ronment (teacher report of total daily minutes afforded to literacy instruction).
All multilevel analyses were conducted using HLM 6 (Raudenbush, Bryk, &
Congdon, 2004); all classic analyses were conducted using SPSS 13 (SPSS
Inc., 1989–2004).
Pretests
Observed pretest and posttest means and standard deviations are reported
in Table 4 (intercorrelations among all measures by condition are provided
in the appendix). The raw scores for receptive language (measured by the
PPVT–IIIA), when converted to standard scores, showed that students in this
sample ranged from 40 (< 1st percentile) to 111 (77th percentile), and averaged
in the bottom 2nd percentile (M = 70.41, SD = 19.22).
Prior to testing our research questions, we wished to determine whether any
pre-intervention differences between conditions existed. Thus, we estimated
Table 4 . Child assessment means and standard deviations
Treatment
a
Control
b
Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest
Measure MSDMSDMSDMSD
Recept Lang 42.02 18.46 36.15 21.06
Print Aware 5.30 3.56 5.40 4.18 4.10 3.35 5.60 3.92
Alphabetics 5.90 6.86 12.40 8.81 6.80 7.93 9.90 9.26
Phono Aware 11.46 5.31 15.00 6.28 10.60 6.30 13.38 6.23
Vocabulary 30.00 14.55 38.85 13.60 27.55 16.13 33.30 17.14
Note. Raw scores used for all measures. Recept Lang = receptive language measured
using the raw score from the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test IIIA; Print Aware =
print awareness items from Section A of the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL)
Print Awareness subtest; Alphabetics = alphabetic knowledge items from Sections B
and C of the TOPEL Print Awareness subtest; Phono Aware = TOPEL Phonological
Awareness subtest; Vocabulary = TOPEL Definitional Vocabulary subtest.
a
n = 41.
b
n = 47.
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 83
the effect of intervention condition on pretest scores (again, condition was
dummy coded 1 = treatment,0= control) while accounting for small-group
and classroom membership using three-level modeling. Model results showed
that the treatment group was significantly higher than controls on one measure
at pretest: print awareness, t(25) = 2.13, p < .05 (all other tests of treatment
on pretest showed slope t-test p values > .10).
Research Question 1: Direct Effects Models
To review, our first research question asked whether a PA-focused intervention
(treatment) implemented by community-based paraeducators had a direct, pos-
itive impact on at-risk preschool children’s literacy outcomes. Our three-level
models testing only the main effect of treatment on posttests showed one direct
effect, on alphabetic knowledge. Specifically, treatment students were predicted
to have a 2.34-point advantage (SE = 0.97) more than controls who predicted
to average 10.11 points, t(25) = 2.42, p < .05, d = .47. (Note that the ap-
proximate Cohen’s, 1988, d for treatment effects is calculated as the difference
between the predicted value for the treatment group [the estimated treatment
coefficient multiplied by +1] and the predicted value for the control group [the
estimated treatment coefficient multiplied by 0], divided by the approximate
pooled standard deviation; the approximate pooled variance is computed as the
squared standard error multiplied by the sample size.)
Research Question 2: Unique Effects Models
To determine whether treatment had unique impacts on posttests after control-
ling for pretest, small-group treatment fidelity, and classroom and home literacy
environments, we added the respective grand-mean centered covariates to our
three-level direct effects models. (Again, zero-order correlations of all variables
are shown in the appendix.) The model results (shown in Table 5) revealed, first,
that treatment did have unique impacts on alphabetic knowledge (d = 1.22)
and phonological awareness (d = .62) but not print awareness (d = –.24) or
vocabulary (d = .16). Second, results showed that pretest significantly uniquely
predicted posttest across all measures (average approximate effect of d = .79
when comparing 1 standard deviation above average to mean pretest perfor-
mance). Third, home literacy environment had a significant positive impact on
vocabulary, showing that children in homes with 1 standard deviation higher
literacy practices have an average advantage of 2.94 more words (approximate
d = .30). Finally, classroom literacy environment had a significant positive
impact on alphabetic knowledge: preschoolers in classrooms whose teachers
spent 1 standard deviation more time on literacy instruction were predicted to
have 0.12 more letters correct (approximate d = .85).
Table 5 . Multilevel model results for unique effects models
Print Aware Alphabetics Phono Aware Vocabulary
Fixed Effects Coeff SE df t d Coeff SE df t d Coeff SE df t d Coeff SE df t d
Posttest M 5.83 0.44 6 13.37
∗∗∗
9.58 0.72 6 13.26
∗∗∗
13.19 0.59 6 22.28
∗∗∗
34.56 1.22 6 22.28
∗∗∗
Treatment 0.85 0.68 24 1.27 .24 3.06 0.48 24 6.33
∗∗∗
1.22 2.25 0.70 24 3.24
∗∗
.62 2.20 2.64 24 0.83 .16
Pretest 0.59 0.09 81 6.28
∗∗∗
.67 0.85 0.11 81 7.72
∗∗∗
.83 0.71 0.08 81 8.55
∗∗∗
.92 0.71 0.11 81 6.71
∗∗∗
.72
Home Lit 0.76 0.66 81 1.14 .12 0.43 1.24 81 0.35 .04 0.94 0.91 81 1.04 .11 2.94 1.07 81 2.75
∗∗
.30
Class Lit 0.01 0.02 6 0.50 .18 0.12 0.05 6 2.41
.85 0.05 0.04 6 1.25 .44 0.13 0.13 6 0.98 .35
Fidelity 0.19 1.83 24 0.10 .02 1.41 3.59 24 0.39 .08 4.59 2.78 24 1.65 .32 1.46 7.14 24 0.20 .04
Random Effects Variance df χ
2
Variance df χ
2
Variance df χ
2
Variance df χ
2
Classrooms 0.00 6 4.34 0.04 6 7.33 0.01 6 5.97 13.69 6 23.70
∗∗
Small groups 0.93 17 28.15
0.00 17 19.31 4.19 17 38.23
∗∗
0.07 17 16.52
Residual 10.49 33.19 15.71 75.41
Note. N = 87 (data from one parent survey missing). Raw scores used for all measures. Recept Lang = receptive language measured using the raw score from the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test IIIA; Print Aware =
print awareness items from Section A of the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL) Print Awareness subtest; Alphabetics = alphabetic knowledge items from Sections B and C of the TOPEL Print Awareness subtest;
Phono Aware = TOPEL Phonological Awareness subtest; Vocabulary = TOPEL Definitional Vocabulary subtest; Treatment dummy coded (1 = treatment, 0 = control); Pretest = corresponding TOPEL subtest; Home
Lit = composite rating scale value of home literacy practices (self report rating scales grand-mean centered and averaged); Class Lit = total daily minutes spent on literacy activities (self-report, grand-mean centered);
Fidelity = composite 5-point rating scale value of intervention fidelity (mean of three observations, grand-mean centered).
p < .05.
∗∗
p < .01.
∗∗∗
p < .001.
84
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 85
DISCUSSION
The primary goal in this study was to test the direct and unique impacts of
a supplemental PA-focused intervention implemented by community-based
paraeducators on preschool children’s early literacy outcomes. We specifically
sought to intensify instruction in both PA and alphabetic knowledge through
curricular organization and pedagogical explicitness, drawing from others’
research on early intervention and phonological awareness (Phillips et al.,
2008). We used a modified form of Interactive Book Reading (Wasik & Bond,
2001; Wasik et al., 2006) as our control condition to (a) control for supplemental
instruction time and consistency and (b) provide an alternative intervention
approach appropriate for preschoolers.
The results of our multilevel models showed, first, positive direct treatment
effects on alphabetic knowledge, and moreover, positive unique treatment ef-
fects on PA and alphabetic knowledge once classroom literacy instruction, treat-
ment fidelity, and child pretest skill and home literacy practices were controlled
for. Further, the impacts were not small: In our unique effects models, we found
that children who received the PA-focused intervention were 3.06 points higher
on alphabetic knowledge and 2.25 points higher on PA compared to children in
the control condition who received a vocabulary-focused storybook interven-
tion. These results, in our view, are impressive on several levels, namely, (a) the
PA and alphabetic knowledge–based supplemental instruction was delivered
by community-based paraeducator tutors instead of highly trained researchers
or classroom teachers, which is promising for preschool programs that have far
fewer funds than regular schools; (b) the intervention was conducted in small
groups and was relatively brief, lasting only 10 weeks, which again lends well
to real-world applications; (c) the treatment, although supplemental, was com-
pared with another literacy oriented intervention rather than business-as-usual,
and as such cannot be simply thought of as “added” instruction); and (d) the
intervention took place prior to kindergarten, a developmental period that is
often overlooked as a time for academic growth.
Although there is limited research on supplemental PA instruction pro-
grams in preschool settings, our findings are supported by previous research
documenting improvements in PA in older children at risk of reading problems
(e.g., Nelson, Benner, et al., 2005). Results are also consistent with the National
Institute for Literacy’s (2008) comprehensive scientific synthesis documenting
that most interventions with PA training either alone or in combination with in-
struction related to alphabetic knowledge (e.g., letter-name instruction) is likely
to produce positive, moderate-to-large, and reliable effects across a range of
key skills related to later reading regardless of a child’s age or developmen-
tal level of children. The treatment condition in this study likely contributed
to PA advantages (over vocabulary-focused storybook reading) because of
its use of instructional activities designed to promote explicit reading-related
phonological-processing abilities (i.e., identification, manipulation, memory of
86 J. R. Nelson et al.
environmental sounds, letter names, sentence meanings, phonological aware-
ness, phonemic awareness and rapid automatic naming).
More relevant to the present study, our findings confirmed and extended
impressive effects of preschool PA explicit instruction on phonological aware-
ness with a speech, language, and hearing impairment foci. Although our
findings, albeit with limited power, provide support for age-appropriate sys-
tematic preschool PA instruction, it substantially improves upon threats to the
external validity of these studies. Studies reviewed (e.g., Bernhardt & Major,
2005; Gillam & van Kleeck, 1996; Gillon, 2005; Laing & Espeland, 2005;
Ziolkowski & Goldstein, 2008) were primarily single-subject, small sample
size designs with language-impaired children as treatment groups and often
conducted in noninclusive settings. In addition, most of the research utilized
convenience samples with researchers-as-interventionists and little or no evi-
dence of treatment fidelity. Most studies were unique to the work of speech-
language pathologists serving preschool with a wide variety of communication
disorders, thus limiting the generalizability to other more inclusive settings.
Despite the promising finding that children who received treatment were signif-
icantly enhanced in their phonological awareness and alphabetic knowledge, it
was not sufficient to completely overcome the Matthew effect (Stanovich, 1986)
regardless of condition or outcome. Pretest scores predicted posttest scores chil-
dren regardless of experimental condition, confirming previous research that
children with higher entry-level skills generally outperform those with lower
entry-level skills. As other researchers have also found (e.g., Penno, Wilkinson,
& Moore, 2002; Robbins & Ehri, 1994), children with higher pretest scores
outperformed children with lower scores at posttest. It is possible that children
with less well-developed phonological sensitivity and vocabulary definition
knowledge did not benefit sufficiently in either condition because they were
less developmentally ready to learn. Another possibility is that the intervention
length was not sufficient to meaningfully alter performance on print aware-
ness and vocabulary for children from impoverished language backgrounds (as
most in the current study were). Clearly, this area of research warrants further
investigation.
The effect of the home literacy environment also merits discussion. The
home literacy environment can be thought of as interrelated resources and
opportunities provided to children, combined with the parental skills, abilities,
and dispositions that govern the provision of these opportunities (Burgess,
Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002). The present finding is not surprising given that
the home literacy environment’s importance rests on the fact that the home
is the setting where children first encounter language and literacy (Weigel,
Martin, & Bennett, 2006). The home literacy environment experiences such
as shared-reading experiences provide significant opportunities for children
to develop early language opportunities essential for skilled reading (Foy &
Mann, 2003). Specifically, shared-reading and other home literacy experiences
provide exposure to spoken language and increases the opportunities to build
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 87
competence in learn new and challenging vocabulary (Umek, Podlesek, &
Fekonja, 2005).
Limitations and Directions for Future Research
As with all studies, the present investigation is not without limitations. First, the
sample of children was drawn from Head Start centers servicing one geographic
location and may not be representative of the general population of prekinder-
garten children served by Head Start centers nationwide. Future research should
replicate these findings across varied contexts. In a similar vein, the children
in the current study were mostly from language-impoverished backgrounds
(averaging in the lower 2nd percentile on the PPVT, our receptive language
measure). As such, future research may use a larger range of child abilities to
determine the optimal conditions of intervention use. Third, the sample size in
the current study is small: With only 27 small groups, power to test the impact of
treatment effect is limited to moderate-to-large effects. (Power was estimated at
23% for detecting small treatment effects [d .30], 52% for detecting moder-
ate effects [d .50], and 90% for large effects [d .80] using Optimal Design
for Multi-level and Longitudinal Research [Liu, Congdon, & Raudenbush,
2001; Raudenbush & Xiao-Feng, 2001]; for this estimate we assumed a two-
level model with 3 students per small group, 27 small groups, an intraclass
correlation of .07, and an alpha level of .05.) Clearly, future studies would do
well to test effects on a larger scale. Fourth, the treatment intervention is a
multicomponent program and thus we cannot tease apart specific component
effects (e.g., segmenting, blending, letter naming) on children’s outcomes. It
is possible that components of the treatment intervention could have been ex-
cluded, whereas others may be necessary to produce treatment effects. Finally,
the outcomes of this intervention should certainly be followed-up to determine
if effects are maintained in later grades.
Despite these limitations, the current study contributes broadly to the idea
that teaching early literacy skills need not wait for kindergarten, let alone first
grade. On a more practical level, this study demonstrates that supplemental
PA-focused instruction can be provided with high fidelity by paraeducators,
an often underutilized community resource. Indeed, for young at-risk children
coming from impoverished communities (i.e., receiving Head Start services),
a PA and alphabetic knowledge intervention may indeed help prevent future
reading failure.
REFERENCES
Anthony, J. L., Williams, J. M., McDonald, R., & Francis, D. J. (2007). Phonological
processing and emergent literacy in younger and older preschool children. Annals
of Dyslexia, 57, 113–137.
88 J. R. Nelson et al.
Ball, E. W., & Blachman, B. A. (1988). Phoneme segmentation training: Effect on
reading readiness. Annals of Dyslexia, 38, 208–225.
Bernhardt, B., & Major, E. (2005). Speech, language and literacy skills 3 years later: A
follow-up study of early phonological and metaphonological intervention. Inter-
national Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 40, 1–27.
Burgess, S. R. (2006). The development of phonological sensitivity. In D. K. Dickinson
& S. B Neuman (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research (Vol. 2, pp. 90–100).
New York: Guilford.
Burgess, S. R., Hecht, S. A., & Lonigan, C. J. (2002). Relations of the home literacy
environment (HLE) to the development of reading-related abilities: A one-year
longitudinal study. Reading Research Quarterly, 37, 408–426.
Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1991). Evaluation of a program to teach phone-
mic awareness to young children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 451–
455.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences.NewYork:
Academic Press.
Craig, S. A. (2006). The effects of an adapted interactive writing intervention on kinder-
garten children’s phonological awareness, spelling, and early reading development:
A contextualized approach to instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98,
714–731.
Dickinson, D. K., & Smith, M. W. (1994). Long-term effects of preschool teachers’ book
readings on low-income children’s vocabulary and story comprehension. Reading
Research Quarterly, 29, 105–122.
Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, L. M. (2006). The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test: IIIA edition.
Circle Pines, MN: AGS.
Ehri, L. C. (1989). The development of spelling knowledge and its role in reading
acquisition and reading disability. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 356–
365.
Ehri, L. C., & Wilce, L. S. (1987). Cipher versus cue reading: An experiment in decoding
acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 3–13.
Farver, J. M., Xu, Y., Eppe, S., & Lonigan, C. J. (2006). Home environments and
young Latino children’s school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly,
21, 196–212.
Foorman, B. R., Francis, D. J., Fletcher, J. M., Schatschneider, C., & Mehta, P. (1998).
The role of instruction in learning to read: Preventing reading failure in at-risk
children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 37–55.
Foy, J. G., & Mann, V. (2003). Home literacy environment and phonological awareness
in preschool children: Differential effects for rhyme and phoneme awareness.
Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 59–88.
Gillam, R. B., & van Kleeck, A. (1996). Phonological awareness training and short-term
working memory: Clinical implications. Topics in Language Disorders, 17, 72–
81.
Gillon, G. T. (2005). Facilitating phoneme awareness development in 3- and 4-year-old
children with speech impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the
Schools, 36, 308–324.
Griffin, E. A., & Morrison, F. J. (1997). The unique contribution of home literacy
environments to differences in early literacy skills. Early Child Development and
Care, 127–128, 233–243.
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 89
Gunn, B., Smolkowski, K., Biglan, A., & Black, C. (2002). Supplemental instruction in
decoding skills for Hispanic and non-Hispanic students in early elementary school:
A follow-up. Journal of Special Education, 36, 69–79.
Hox, J. J. (2002). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and applications.Mahwah,NJ:
Erlbaum.
Justice, L. M., Meier, J., & Walpole, S. (2005). Learning new words from storybooks:
An efficacy study with at-risk kindergartners. Language, Speech, and Hearing
Services in Schools, 36, 17–32.
Laing, S. P., & Espeland, W. (2005). Low intensity phonological awareness training in
a preschool classroom for children with communication impairments. Journal of
Communication Disorders, 38, 65–82.
Liu, X., Congdon, R. T., & Raudenbush, S. W. (2001). Optimal Design for Multi-level
and Longitudinal Research 0.30. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Institute of
Social Research, Survey Research Center.
Leafstedt, J. M., Richards, C. R., & Gerber, M. M. (2004). Effectiveness of explicit
phonological-awareness instruction for at-risk English learners. Learning Disabil-
ities Research & Practice, 19, 252–261.
Lonigan, C. J. (2006). Conceptualizing phonological processing skills in preschoolers.
In D. K. Dickinson & S. B Newuman (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research
(Vol. 2, pp. 77–89). New York: Guilford.
Lonigan, C. J. (2007). Vocabulary development and the development of phonolog-
ical awareness skills in preschool children. In R. Wagner, A. Muse, & K. R.
Tennenbaum (Eds.), Vocabulary acquisition: Implications for reading comprehen-
sion (pp. 15–31). New York: Guilford.
Lonigan, C. J., Anthony, J. L., Phillips, B. M., Purpura, D. J., Wilson, S. B., & McQueen,
J. D. (2009). The nature of preschool phonological processing abilities and their
relations to vocabulary, general cognitive abilities, and print knowledge. Journal
of Educational Psychology, 101, 345–358.
Lonigan, C. J., Wagner, R. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (2007). Test of Preschool Early Literacy.
Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
National Institute for Literacy. (2008). Developing early literacy: Report of the National
Early Literacy Panel. Jessup, MD: Author.
Nelson, J. R., Benner, G. J., & Gonzalez, J. (2005). An investigation of the effects of a
prereading intervention on the early literacy skills of children at risk of emotional
disturbance and reading problems. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,
13, 3–12.
Nelson, J. R., Cooper, C., & Gonzalez, J. (2004). Stepping stones to literacy. Longmont,
CO: Spring West.
Nelson, J. R., Stage, S. A., Epstein, M. H., & Pierce, C. D. (2005). Effects of a prereading
intervention on the literacy and social skills of children. Council for Exceptional
Children, 72, 29–45.
Penno, J. F., Wilkinson, I. A. G., & Moore, D. W. (2002). Vocabulary acquisition
from teacher explanation and repeated listening to stories: Do they overcome the
Matthew effect? Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 23–33.
Phillips, B. M., Clancy-Menchetti, J., & Lonigan, C. J. (2008). Successful phonological
awareness instruction with preschool children: Lessons from the classroom. Topics
in Early Childhood Special Education, 28, 3–17.
90 J. R. Nelson et al.
Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., & Congdon, R. T. (2004). HLM for Windows 6.0.
Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.
Raudenbush, S. W., & Xiao-Feng, L.. (2001). Effects of study duration, frequency of
observation, and sample size on power in studies of group differences in polynomial
change. Psychological Methods, 6, 387–401.
Robbins, C., & Ehri, L. C. (1994). Reading storybooks to kindergartners helps them
learn new vocabulary words. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 54–64.
Share, D. L., Jorm, A. F., Maclean, R., & Matthews, R. (1984). Sources of individ-
ual differences in reading acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76,
1309–1324.
Shaywitz, B. A., Lyon, G. R., & Shaywitz, S. E. (2006). The role of functional mag-
netic resonance imaging in understanding reading and dyslexia. Developmental
Neuropsychology, 30, 613–632.
Smith, S. B., Simmons, D. C., & Kame’enui, E. J. (1998). Phonological awareness:
Research Bases. In D. C. Simmons & E. J. Kame’enui (Eds.), What reading
research tells us about children with diverse learning needs (pp. 61–128). Mahwah,
NJ: Erlbaum.
Speer, O. B., & Lamb, G. S. (1976). First grade reading ability and fluency in naming
verbal symbols. The Reading Teacher, 29, 572–576.
Stahl, S. A., & Murray, B. A. (2006). Defining phonological awareness and its rela-
tionship to early reading. In K. A. Dougherty Stahl & M. C. McKenna (Eds.),
Reading research at work: Foundations of effective practice (pp. 92–125). New
York: Guilford.
Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual
differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 360–
407.
Stanovich, K. E., Cunningham, A. E., & Cramer, B. B. (1984). Assessing phonolog-
ical awareness in kindergarten children: Issues of task comparability. Journal of
Experimental Child Psychology, 38, 175–190.
Tunmer, W. E., Herriman, M. L., & Nesdale, A. R. (1988). Metalinguistic abilities and
beginning reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 134–158.
Umek, L. M., Podlesek, A., & Fekonja, U. (2005). Assessing the home literacy environ-
ment: Relationships to child language comprehension and expression. European
Journal of Psychological Assessment, 21, 271–281.
Vadasy, P. F., & Sanders, E. A. (2008a). Code-oriented instruction for kindergarten stu-
dents at risk for reading difficulties: A replication and comparison of instructional
groupings. Reading and Writing, 21, 929–963.
Vadasy, P. F., & Sanders, E. A. (2008b). Individual tutoring for struggling readers:
Moving research to scale with interventions implemented by paraeducators. In G.
A. Reid, A. Fawcett, F. Manis, & L. Seigel (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of dyslexia
(pp. 337–355). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Vadasy, P. F., Sanders, E. A., & Peyton, J. A. (2006). Code-oriented instruction for
kindergarten students at risk for reading difficulties: A randomized field trial with
paraeducator implementers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 508–528.
Vellutino, F. R., & Scanlon, D. M. (1987). Phonological coding, phonological awareness,
and reading ability: Evidence from a longitudinal and experimental study. Merrill-
Palmer Quarterly, 33, 321–363.
Supplemental Early Literacy Instruction for Preschoolers 91
Wagner, R. K. (1988). Causal relations between the development of phonological pro-
cessing abilities and the acquisition of reading skills: A meta-analysis. Merrill-
Palmer Quarterly, 34, 261–279.
Wagner, R. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and
its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological Bulletin, 101,
192–212.
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., Laughon, P., Simmons, K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1993).
Development of young readers’ phonological processing abilities. Journal of Ed-
ucational Psychology, 85, 83–103.
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1994). Development of reading-
related phonological processing abilities: New evidence of bidirectional causality
from a latent variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 30, 73–87.
Wasik, B. A., & Bond, M. A. (2001). Beyond the pages of a book: Interactive book
reading and language development in preschool classrooms. Journal of Educational
Psychology, 93, 243–250.
Wasik, B. A., Bond, M. A., & Hindman, A. (2006). The effects of a language and
literacy intervention on Head Start children and teachers. Journal of Educational
Psychology, 98, 63–74.
Weigel, D. J., Martin, S. S., & Bennett, K. K. (2006). Contributions of the home literacy
environment to preschool-aged children’s emerging literacy and language skills.
Early Child Development and Care, 176, 357–378.
Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Research on teacher preparation and professional devel-
opment White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers. Retrieved
March 5, 2009, from www.whitehouse.gov/admins/tchrqual/learn/preparingteach-
ersconferenc/whitehurst.html
Whitehurst, G. J., Epstein, J. N., Angell, A. L., Payne, A. C., Crone, D. A., & Fischel,
J. E. (1994). Outcomes of an emergent literacy intervention in Head Start. Journal
of Educational Psychology, 86, 542–555
Wolf, M. (1984). Naming, reading, and the dyslexias: A longitudinal overview. Annals
of Dyslexia, 34, 87–115.
Wolf, M., Bally, H., & Morris, R. (1986). Automaticity, retrieval processes, and reading:
A longitudinal study in average and impaired readers. Child Development, 57,
988–1000.
Ziolkowski, R. A., & Goldstein, H. (2008). Effects of an embedded phonological aware-
ness intervention during repeated book reading on preschool children with language
delays. Journal of Early Intervention, 31, 67–90.
92 J. R. Nelson et al.
APPENDIX
Table A1. Zero-order correlations
Variable 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
1. Home Lit .01 –.11 .44 .12 .27 .21 .37 .06 .15 .03 .30
2. Class Lit .04 .12 .13 .03 .17 –.09 –.12 .09 .42 .19 .22
3. Fidelity .06 .47 –.07 –.13 –.02 .00 –.31 –.11 –.03 –.29 –.20
4. Recept Lang .63 .11 .09 .63 .65 .57 .74 .43 .52 .54 .72
5. Print Aware .06 –.11 .24 .41 .60 .46 .53 .66 .48 .48 .45
6. Alphabetics .18 .17 .26 .51 .57 .50 .52 .62 .75 .55 .49
7. Phono Aware .45 .15 .20 .69 .47 .42 .53 .54 .28 .78 .51
8. Vocabulary .58 .00 .06 .88 .43 .51 .62 .37 .46 .59 .63
9. Print Aware .19 –.07 .16 .37 .41 .35 .30 .43 .52 .53 .43
10. Alphabetics .11 .23 .33 .45 .42 .74 .33 .42 .55 .42 .44
11. Phono Aware .50 .04 .14 .73 .41 .35 .61 .70 .55 .57 .66
12. Vocabulary .54 .02 .16 .81 .37 .44 .59 .87 .50 .57 .79
Note. Treatment condition correlations shown in upper diagonal (n = 41) and control
condition correlations shown in lower diagonal (n = 47). Raw scores used for all
measures. Home Lit = composite rating scale value of home literacy practices (self
report rating scales grand-mean centered and averaged); Class Lit = total daily minutes
spent on literacy activities (self report, grand-mean centered); Fidelity = composite
5-point rating scale value of intervention fidelity (mean of three observations, grand-
mean centered); Recept Lang = receptive language measured using the raw score from
the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test IIIA; Print Aware = print awareness items from
Section A of the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL) Print Awareness subtest;
Alphabetics = alphabetic knowledge items from Sections B and C of the TOPEL
Print Awareness subtest; Phono Aware = TOPEL Phonological Awareness subtest;
Vo c a b u l a r y = TOPEL Definitional Vocabulary subtest; Correlations in bold face are
significant at the .05 level.
... Implementation of Stepping Stones in schools can vary along several dimensions; for example, in some cases, teachers deliver the program to small groups of students, instead of tutors administering the program one-on-one. WWC lists two recent evaluations of Stepping Stones: Nelson, Benner, and Gonzalez (2005), and Nelson, Stage, Epstein, and Pierce (2005). These studies show positive outcomes for three alphabetics constructs: phonological awareness, phonics, and letter knowledge. ...
... We assumed that costs are essentially the same for both implementations of Stepping Stones (Nelson, Benner, et al., 2005;Nelson, Stage, et al., 2005) given the similarity of the studies, but, as an additional sensitivity analysis, we calculate the cost-effectiveness ratio for alphabetics using the two separate effect sizes for each study. This demonstrates the variation in effectiveness and cost-effectiveness masked by averaging effect sizes across studies. ...
... Note that, in most situations, costs could not be assumed to be the same across implementations so that both costs and effects would generally be expected to vary between studies of the same program. For the Nelson, Benner, and Gonzalez (2005) study, the effect size was 0.8, resulting in a cost-effectiveness ratio of $599 per standard deviation increase in alphabetics skills. For the Nelson, Stage, improving early literacy: cost-effectiveness analysis of effective reading programs -28 -Epstein, and Pierce (2005) study, the effect size was 0.87, yielding a cost-effectiveness ratio of $551 per standard deviation increase in alphabetics skills. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study is a cost-effectiveness analysis of seven early literacy programs that have all been previously identified as effective at improving reading outcomes for students in Grades K-3. We use the ingredients method to collect cost data for each program and compare the cost-effectiveness of programs serving students in the same grade level.
... Of the 23 studies reporting FSID outcomes, two were identified as outliers and removed from the data set (Hindson et al., 2005;Nelson et al., 2005). Surprisingly, there was no heterogeneity observed between the remaining 21 studies (τ 2 = 0, I 2 = 0%, Q = 19.25, ...
Article
Purpose The present meta-analysis sought to investigate the effects of phonemic awareness instruction provided to children suspected of having a reading disability. Method Seven databases were systematically searched, and 1,643 unique manuscripts were reviewed for inclusion. Data were extracted from 138 included manuscripts to evaluate the use of phonemic awareness instructions with children suspected of having a reading disability. A random effects model was then used to conduct a meta-analysis of these data with regard to child outcomes. Results Gains in this population associated with phonemic awareness instructions can vary as a function of the outcome being used. On average, phonemic awareness instruction had a medium effect on composite ( g = 0.511) and segmentation ( g = 0.571) outcomes and a small effect on outcomes measuring blending ( g = 0.341), first sound identification ( g = 0.428), and deletion ( g = 0.248). Instruction effects were strongest in kindergarten and first grade, but positive outcomes were also found for older children. There was not a significant relationship between cumulative instruction intensity and child performance. Conclusions The present meta-analysis confirms that phonemic awareness instruction can be effective with children of varying ages and that significant gains can be observed on the key outcome measures of segmentation and blending. Graphemes should be incorporated into phonemic awareness instructions, and future studies need to provide information on dosage beyond just the length and frequency of sessions to clarify which aspects of these instructions are most efficient. Supplemental Material https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.20277714
... Children with LI are at risk for lags in early literacy skills during the preschool years (Justice et al., 2006). Research studies on other populations of children with disabilities in inclusive ECSE classrooms (e.g., children with ASD, emotional disturbances) similarly have found that these children show significant lags in their attainment of early literacy skills and school readiness (e.g., Dynia Nation, Clarke, Wright, & Williams, 2006;Nelson, Benner, & Gonzalez, 2005). ...
Article
Using data from 73 early childhood special education (ECSE) teachers and 837 preschool children, this study examined whether teachers experienced differences in self-efficacy in teaching children with and without disabilities, as well as whether they experienced differences in self-efficacy when teaching children with different types of disabilities. Additionally, we investigated the relations between ECSE teachers' self-efficacy toward individual children and children's print knowledge, as well as the extent to which children's disability status moderated these relations. Our results showed that ECSE teachers felt less self-efficacious with children with disabilities versus children who are typically developing and experienced the lowest efficacy for teaching children with autism spectrum disorder among children with disabilities. ECSE teachers' self-efficacy in relation to individual children served as a significant predictor of children's print knowledge. Results did not support a moderation role for children's disability status. These findings illustrate the importance of examining teacher self-efficacy at the child level and indicate that higher teacher self-efficacy is beneficial to early literacy development for all children in ECSE classrooms, including those with disabilities.
Article
Accelerated reader (AR) is a computerized reading program commonly used in schools. The program aims to enhance students' reading achievement and encourage students to read more through goal setting and frequent reading practice. A meta‐analytic review of the AR was conducted to analyse its effectiveness as an evidence‐based intervention for improving student reading achievement, attitude, and motivation. This study investigated potential moderating variables, including publication type, participant, and study characteristics that impact student reading outcomes. A total of 44 studies from peer‐reviewed journal articles and dissertations met the inclusion criteria. Participants included 16,653 students enrolled in elementary, middle, and high school. Hedges' g effect sizes measures suggest pretest–posttest one‐group AR studies have moderate effects (g = 0.541) while comparison group AR studies have marginal effects (g = 0.278). A meta‐regression model of six potential categorical moderators of comparison group studies indicted no significant moderators. Implications and the need for further research regarding evidence‐based and culturally appropriate reading interventions are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
هدفت الدراسة إلى كشف عن مستوى الخدمات ال ُمسانِدة ال ُمقدَّمة لطلبةة صةعوبات الةتعلم فة المدارس األساسيَّة فة ماافةةة البلقةان مةن نظةة نةةرهمق لتاقيةل هةدة الدراسةة قةام الباح ةان ِنة الدراسة من ) بتطوير استبانة خاصة لذلك، تكَّونت عي 100 )طالب طالبةة مةن ي ص صةعوبات التعلم، من الفئات العمريَّة من )8-13 )سنةق إي أشارت النتائج إلةى أ َّن مسةتوى الخةدمات ال ُمسةانِدة ال ُمقدَّمة لطلبة صعوبات التعلم ف المدارس األساسيَّة فة ماافةةة البلقةان مةن نظةة نةةر الطلبةة أنفسظم نان ُمتو ِ س د فةر يات دللةة إحئةائيَّة، تعةمى ل ُمت ي ةر ًطا، كما أظظرت النتائج عةدم نةو ننس المدرسة السلطة ال ُمشرفة ف نميع األبعاد، فة الدرنةة ال ُكليَّةة، أ صةت الدراسةة بعةدد من التوصيات منظا ضر رة الهتمام بتوفر الخدمات المساندة ال ُمقدَّمة لطلبة صةعوبات الةتعلم فة لقانق ف ماافةة الب مدارس الت عليم األساس ِ الكلمات المفتاحية: الخدمات ال ُمسانِدة، صعوبات التعلم، المةدارس األساسةيَّة، مديريَّةة تربيةة قئبة السلط بماافةة البلقان
Article
Most students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) have significant reading difficulties, but educators have few in-service professional learning opportunities geared to reading instruction for these students. The Integrated Literacy Study Group was developed as an online professional development program to prepare elementary teachers to meet the literacy needs of students with or at risk of EBD. In this study, the authors use a within-subjects design to evaluate the feasibility of the 10-week digital program with 13 elementary teachers. From pretest to posttest, teachers made statistically and educationally significant gains in knowledge of evidence-based social and emotional learning and reading strategies for students with EBD, as well as significant improvements in general teacher self-efficacy, reading self-efficacy, and social and emotional self-efficacy. Pretest-to-posttest change in teacher burnout and classroom management was educationally significant, but statistically nonsignificant. Most teachers perceived the program content as relevant to their needs and those of their students.
Article
This study examined a literacy program that targeted students most at risk of reading difficulties in kindergarten and first grade of 12 Swedish schools. The program used multi-sensory learning methods that focused on phonological awareness and phonics, and was delivered during 10 weeks over 30–35 sessions by teachers in a one-to-one or one-to-two setting. In total, 161 students aged 6–7 years were randomly assigned to a treatment group or a waiting list control group. The treatment group showed large and statistically significant improvements compared to the control group on the two pre-registered primary outcome measures: a standardized test of decoding (Hedges’ g = 1.07) and a standardized test of letter knowledge (g = 1.03). The improvements were also significantly larger on measures of phonological awareness (g = 0.56) and self-efficacy (g = 0.57), but not on measures of enjoyment and motivation. The program appears cost-effective relative to other tutoring programs.
Article
Full-text available
Background Low levels of numeracy and literacy skills are associated with a range of negative outcomes later in life, such as reduced earnings and health. Obtaining information about effective interventions for children with or at risk of academic difficulties is therefore important. Objectives The main objective was to assess the effectiveness of interventions targeting students with or at risk of academic difficulties in kindergarten to Grade 6. Search Methods We searched electronic databases from 1980 to July 2018. We searched multiple international electronic databases (in total 15), seven national repositories, and performed a search of the grey literature using governmental sites, academic clearinghouses and repositories for reports and working papers, and trial registries (10 sources). We hand searched recent volumes of six journals and contacted international experts. Lastly, we used included studies and 23 previously published reviews for citation tracking. Selection Criteria Studies had to meet the following criteria to be included: • Population: The population eligible for the review included students attending regular schools in kindergarten to Grade 6, who were having academic difficulties, or were at risk of such difficulties. • Intervention: We included interventions that sought to improve academic skills, were conducted in schools during the regular school year, and were targeted (selected or indicated). • Comparison: Included studies used an intervention‐control group design or a comparison group design. We included randomised controlled trials (RCT); quasi‐randomised controlled trials (QRCT); and quasi‐experimental studies (QES). • Outcomes: Included studies used standardised tests in reading or mathematics. • Setting: Studies carried out in regular schools in an OECD country were included. Data Collection and Analysis Descriptive and numerical characteristics of included studies were coded by members of the review team. A review author independently checked coding. We used an extended version of the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool to assess risk of bias. We used random‐effects meta‐analysis and robust‐variance estimation procedures to synthesise effect sizes. We conducted separate meta‐analyses for tests performed within three months of the end of interventions (short‐term effects) and longer follow‐up periods. For short‐term effects, we performed subgroup and moderator analyses focused on instructional methods and content domains. We assessed sensitivity of the results to effect size measurement, outliers, clustered assignment of treatment, risk of bias, missing moderator information, control group progression, and publication bias. Results We found in total 24,414 potentially relevant records, screened 4247 of them in full text, and included 607 studies that met the inclusion criteria. We included 205 studies of a wide range of intervention types in at least one meta‐analysis (202 intervention‐control studies and 3 comparison designs). The reasons for excluding studies from the analysis were that they had too high risk of bias (257), compared two alternative interventions (104 studies), lacked necessary information (24 studies), or used overlapping samples (17 studies). The total number of student observations in the analysed studies was 226,745. There were 93% RCTs among the 327 interventions we included in the meta‐analysis of intervention‐control contrasts and 86% were from the United States. The target group consisted of, on average, 45% girls, 65% minority students, and 69% low‐income students. The mean Grade was 2.4. Most studies included in the meta‐analysis had a moderate to high risk of bias. The overall average effect sizes (ES) for short‐term and follow‐up outcomes were positive and statistically significant (ES = 0.30, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [0.25, 0.34] and ES = 0.27, 95% CI = [0.17, 0.36]), respectively). The effect sizes correspond to around one third to one half of the achievement gap between fourth Grade students with high and low socioeconomic status in the United States and to a 58% chance that a randomly selected score of an intervention group student is greater than the score of a randomly selected control group student. All measures indicated substantial heterogeneity across short‐term effect sizes. Follow‐up outcomes pertain almost exclusively to studies examining small‐group instruction by adults and effects on reading measures. The follow‐up effect sizes were considerably less heterogeneous than the short‐term effect sizes, although there was still statistically significant heterogeneity. Two instructional methods, peer‐assisted instruction and small‐group instruction by adults, had large and statistically significant average effect sizes that were robust across specifications in the subgroup analysis of short‐term effects (ES around 0.35–0.45). In meta‐regressions that adjusted for methods, content domains, and other study characteristics, they had significantly larger effect sizes than computer‐assisted instruction, coaching of personnel, incentives, and progress monitoring. Peer‐assisted instruction also had significantly larger effect sizes than medium‐group instruction. Besides peer‐assisted instruction and small‐group instruction, no other methods were consistently significant across the analyses that tried to isolate the association between a specific method and effect sizes. However, most analyses showed statistically significant heterogeneity also within categories of instructional methods. We found little evidence that effect sizes were larger in some content domains than others. Fractions had significantly higher associations with effect sizes than all other math domains, but there were only six studies of interventions targeting fractions. We found no evidence of adverse effects in the sense that no method or domain had robustly negative associations with effect sizes. The meta‐regressions revealed few other significant moderators. Interventions in higher Grades tend to have somewhat lower effect sizes, whereas there were no significant differences between QES and RCTs, general tests and tests of subdomains, and math tests and reading tests. Authors’ Conclusions Our results indicate that interventions targeting students with or at risk of academic difficulties from kindergarten to Grade 6 have on average positive and statistically significant short‐term and follow‐up effects on standardised tests in reading and mathematics. Peer‐assisted instruction and small‐group instruction are likely to be effective components of such interventions. We believe the relatively large effect sizes together with the substantial unexplained heterogeneity imply that schools can reduce the achievement gap between students with or at risk of academic difficulties and not‐at‐risk students by implementing targeted interventions, and that more research into the design of effective interventions is needed.
Article
Full-text available
Research suggests Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) are directly linked to specific neurocognitive deficits that result in unexpected learning delays in academic domains for children in schools. However, meta-analytic studies have failed to find supporting evidence for using neurocognitive tests and, consequently, have discouraged their inclusion in SLD identification policies. The current study critically reviews meta-analytic findings and the methodological validity of over 200 research studies used in previous meta-analytic studies to estimate the causal effect of neurocognitive tests on intervention outcomes. Results suggest that only a very small percentage (6–12%) of studies used in previous meta-analytic studies were methodologically valid to estimate a direct effect of cognitive tests on academic intervention outcomes, with the majority of studies having no causal link between neurocognitive tests and intervention outcomes. Additionally, significant reporting discrepancies and inaccurate effect size estimates were found that warranted legitimate concerns for conclusions and policy recommendations provided in several meta-analytic studies. Given the lack of methodological rigor linking cognitive testing to academic interventions in current research, removing neurocognitive testing from learning disability evaluations may be premature. Suggestions for future studies evaluating the impact of neurocognitive tests on intervention outcomes as well as guidelines for synthesizing meta-analytic findings are discussed.
Article
Mobile devices are now ubiquitous across communities of all income levels, with very young children spending a great deal of time on smartphones and tablets even before they begin formal schooling. If this time could be channeled towards fostering school readiness, it might help narrow the SES opportunity gap. To date, however, little research has examined the effects of preschoolers’ home use of educational apps. The current study evaluated the Khan Academy Kids (Khan Kids) app with children from families with low incomes. We employed a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effects of home use of the app on 4- and 5-year-olds’ emergent literacy skills. At baseline, parents reported that their preschoolers used mobile media 99 minutes per day, with very little of this time described as educational. After a pretest assessment, the Khan Kids app was used an average of 13 minutes per day for 10 weeks and was well received. Children who used this app showed increases in their emergent literacy skills compared to children provided with age-appropriate apps not targeting these skills. Results suggest that educational apps could provide a practical tool for fostering academic success and narrowing the SES opportunity gap.
Article
Full-text available
The effects of a book reading technique called interactive book reading on the language and literacy development of 4-year-olds from low-income families were evaluated. Teachers read books to children and reinforced the vocabulary in the books by presenting concrete objects that represented the words and by providing children with multiple opportunities to use the book-related words. The teachers also were trained to ask open-ended questions and to engage children in conversations about the book and activities. This provided children with opportunities to use language and learn vocabulary in a meaningful context. Children who were in the interactive book reading intervention group scored significantly better than children in the comparison group on Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-M and other measures of receptive and expressive language. Book reading and related activities can promote the development of language and literacy skills in young children.
Article
Full-text available
This study examined phonological sensitivity in 238 children from middle- to upper-income families and 118 children from lower-income families across different levels of linguistic complexity. Children ranged in age from 2 to 5 years. Overall, the results indicated that as children increased in age, phonological sensitivity both increased in absolute terms and became more stable. Significant social class differences in growth of phonological sensitivity were also obtained. Phonological sensitivity at different levels of linguistic complexity (e.g., syllables, phonemes) was substantially interrelated at each age and predicted word reading ability in older children independently of language skills and letter knowledge. These results indicate that phonological sensitivity can be assessed in young preschool children and that lower levels of phonological sensitivity may serve as developmental precursors to higher levels of phonological sensitivity.
Article
Full-text available
The authors evaluated the effect of listening to stories on children's vocabulary growth. Forty-seven children listened to 2 stories read to them in a small-group setting on 3 occasions, each 1 week apart. Target vocabulary items and items assessing generalization to nontarget words were selected, and pre- and posttest multiple-choice vocabulary measures were designed to measure vocabulary gains. In addition, a reading-retelling task was used to measure the subjects' knowledge of target and generalization words. For 1 story, children listened to the reading and were given explanations of target word meanings; for the other, children were not given explanations. The children acquired new vocabulary from listening to stories, with both frequency of exposure and teacher explanation of the target words enhancing vocabulary learning. However, the interventions were not sufficient to overcome the Matthew effect, as the higher ability children made greater vocabulary gains than lower ability children across all conditions.
Article
Students with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD) often exhibit reading problems that contribute to a progressive pattern of academic underachievement and school failure. However, limited research exists concerning effective reading interventions for students with E/BD. One reading program that has been validated in the literature with students who have learning disabilities (LD) is Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), which consists of teacher-led and peer tutoring components. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of Kindergarten PALS (K-PALS) in increasing the beginning reading skills of kindergarten students identified as having E/BD. Results indicated that the peer tutoring phase of K-PALS led to increases in student scores on letter-sound correspondence and blending probes. Consistent with the literature on the efficacy of PALS with the LD population, these findings suggest that K-PALS is a promising approach in increasing the reading performance of students with E/BD who are at risk for reading failure.
Article
Four low-achieving fifth-grade African-American males with behavioral disorders tutored sight words to four low-achieving second-grade African-American males with behavioral disorders. Four fifth-grade and four second-grade African-American males with behavioral disorders who did not participate in the tutoring program served as comparisons for the tutors and tutees. The effects of the tutoring program on social behaviors was assessed through direct observations and pre/post ratings by classroom teachers. Similarly, self-ratings of social competence were obtained on all students. Percentage increases in sight words were greater for all tutors and tutees compared to those of their nontutoring peers. Positive social interactions were observed during tutoring and teacher ratings were more favorable for tutoring students. The intervention appeared to have no effect on self-perceptions of social skills. The results of this study validate the ability of low-achieving African-American males with behavioral disorders to serve as tutors and the beneficial effects for both tutees and tutors.
Article
Classrooms of 4-year-olds attending Head Start were randomly assigned to an intervention condition, involving an add-on emergent literacy curriculum, or a control condition, involving the regular Head Start curriculum. Children in the intervention condition experienced interactive book reading at home and in the classroom as well as a classroom-based sound and letter awareness program. Children were pretested and posttested on standardized tests of language, writing, linguistic awareness, and print concepts. Effects of the intervention were significant across all children in the domains of writing and print concepts. Effects on language were large but only for those children whose primary caregivers had been actively involved in the at-home component of the program. One linguistic awareness subtest, involving the ability to identify the first letter and first sound of words, showed significant effects.