Simple Change By Teachers Could Increase Reading Skills Later For Preschoolers
April 17, 2012

Simple Change By Teachers Could Increase Reading Skills Later For Preschoolers

A new study has found that making a small change in how teachers read aloud to preschoolers is making a big leap in reading skills later in life. That change involves making specific references to print in books while reading to children.

The study is part of Project STAR (Sit Together And Read), a randomized clinical trial based at Ohio State University to test the short- and long-term impacts associated with reading regularly to preschool children in the classroom.

The change involves pointing out letters and words on the pages to the child, showing capital letters, and showing how you read from left to right and top to bottom on the page. This is the first study to show causal links between referencing print and later literacy achievement.

Preschool teachers who used print references during storybook reading with preschoolers showed more advanced reading skills one and even two years later when compared to children whose teachers did not use such references.

“Using print references during reading was just a slight tweak to what teachers were already doing in the classroom, but it led to a sizeable improvement in reading for kids,” said Shayne Piasta, co-author of the study and assistant professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State University.

“This would be a very manageable change for most preschool teachers, who already are doing storybook reading in class.”

Piasta conducted the study with lead investigator Laura Justice, professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State, as well as co-investigators Anita McGinty of the University of Virginia and Joan Kaderavek of the University of Toledo.

In some of the classrooms, teachers talked about the print in the books and also nonverbally referred to the print. This allowed the children to see and learn certain letters, trace the print with their fingers, noted the directionality of the type (for example, how we read from left to right in the English language.

In other preschool classrooms, teachers read to the children using a more traditional style for reading aloud that typically doesn´t draw children´s attention to the print on the page.

The number of times the students were read to was also important. In some classrooms, children were read to four times a week, while in others, they were read to twice a week. Follow-up assessments were done in elementary school a year later and two years later.

“Our findings ultimately support the importance of encouraging young children to attend to and interact with print during the preschool years as a means of fostering long-term literacy development,” explained Piasta.

“By showing them what a letter is and what a letter means, and what a word is and what a word means, we´re helping them to crack the code of language and understand how to read.”

“The results can inform the development of early childhood programs and curricula that facilitate literacy skill acquisition for the large numbers of U.S. children living in poverty and attending targeted programs such as Head Start or state-sponsored prekindergarten.”

The results of the study appear in the April 2012 issue of the journal Child Development.