Reading and Writing Education Research

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University of Virginia Project Abstract
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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

Principal Investigator: Laura Justice
RFA Goal: Efficacy and Replication Project
Title: Print Referencing Efficacy

Purpose: The preschool years are a critical period during which young children develop skills, knowledge, and interests in the code- and meaning-based aspects of written and spoken language. Research has shown that there are substantial early differences in children’s emergent literacy skills and that those skills contribute to long-term outcomes in children’s reading achievement. At the same time, research shows that intervening before children reach elementary school significantly decreases the likelihood of their developing reading difficulties. This research team will implement and rigorously evaluate a preschool literacy intervention designed to facilitate children’s early achievements in print knowledge, including names of alphabet letters and the way in which print is organized and carries meaning in texts, including children’s writing. The purpose of this project is to complete a systematic and rigorous replication and extension of research showing the effectiveness of the Print-Referencing Intervention in enhancing the literacy of all children, including those at risk of failure.

Setting: This project takes place in preschool classrooms in three states. Children living in the geographically isolated and rural coal-mining regions of Appalachia in Virginia and West Virginia, and children in the industrial urban regions of northern Ohio are participating.

Population: A total of 540 4-year-old children attending preschool classrooms serving at-risk children are participating in this research study. Many of these children live in low-income families and are attending Head Start. The majority of participating children are non-Hispanic white (estimated at 86 percent). Approximately 11 percent of the participating children are African-American and 3 percent are Hispanic.

Intervention: The Print-Referencing Intervention is an intervention approach designed to accelerate print knowledge in young children. During shared book reading interactions, teachers systematically and explicitly draw children’s attention toward print. The intervention occurs over 30 weeks of instruction.

Research Design and Methods: Children in 90 preschool classrooms are being randomly assigned to one of three conditions, two experimental and one control. One group of experimental classrooms experiences daily explicit exposure to print in storybooks, while the second group of experimental classrooms experiences biweekly explicit exposure to print in storybooks. In addition to answering the central research question examining print-referencing effectiveness, the researchers are also addressing questions examining the processes and mechanisms of the intervention approach, such as the unique influence of procedural fidelity versus implementation quality, and potential moderators of effect (e.g., children’s language ability, home literacy experiences).

Control Condition: Children in control classrooms experience daily implicit exposure to print in storybooks. This experience is the same as regular instruction that occurs during shared book reading in preschool classrooms. Control teachers receive the same 30 print-salient storybooks provided to the experimental teachers and are asked to read each week’s book four times during its scheduled week.

Key Measures: Observational and descriptive measures of implementation fidelity, implementation quality, and potential moderators of child outcomes are being collected. A series of standardized measures are being used to assess child outcomes in literacy and academic adjustment.

Data Analytic Strategy: Given the nested design of children clustered in classrooms and the research team’s interest in exploring moderators of impact, the major analytic techniques being employed include growth curve modeling using structural equation modeling. Descriptive analyses are also being carried out.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006