Program

Oct 26, 2007

OVERVIEW

Let’s Begin with
the Letter People is a program designed to enhance early language and literacy
skills. The program targets many areas of language development including
building letter knowledge, phonological awareness, language and motivation to
read, development of vocabulary, and receptive and expressive language
development. The Let’s Begin program also has a special emphasis on
letter knowledge and phonological awareness. An experimental evaluation
of the program in which sites were randomly assigned found that it improved
children’s auditory comprehension, vocabulary, phonological awareness, letter
and word identification, and sound awareness/rhyming.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Children with normal
development attending pre-kindergarten programs

The Let’s Begin with the Letter People program is designed
for pre-kindergarten classrooms. Teachers are extensively trained in the
program and are given a variety of interactive and printed materials. The
curriculum revolves around the Letter People, called “Huggables”,
who are the center of stories and language activities. The curriculum has
26 units which include 7 different areas: oral language and listening,
alphabetic/story knowledge and writing, science and math, personal and social
development, motor skills, art and music, and taking learning to the
home. The lessons are interactive and children learn in small groups and
also learn with personalized examples.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Assel, M. A., Landry, S.
H., Swank, P. R., & Gunnewig, S. (2007). An
evaluation of curriculum, setting, and mentoring on the performance of children
enrolled in pre-kindergarten. Reading and Writing, 20, 463-494.

Evaluated population: 603 pre-kindergarten
children who were enrolled in three types of full-day programs, Title 1,
Universal Pre-K, and Head Start. Children were 4 years of age at the
start of the evaluation and 51% male. Two-hundred forty-five children
were in Head Start programs, 213 were in Title 1 programs, and 145 were in
Universal Pre-K programs. The program types had quite different
breakdowns in racial composition such that the Head Start programs were
composed primarily of African-America and Hispanic children, Title 1 programs
were composed primarily of Hispanic and Caucasian children, and the Universal
Pre-K programs were composed primarily of Caucasian children. Overall,
the sample was 21% African-American, 42% Hispanic, 29% Caucasian, and 8% other
ethnicity.

Approach: Schools were recruited from a school
district in Houston, Texas. The schools were randomly
assigned to one of three conditions: Let’s Begin with the Letter People, Doors
to Discovery, or a control condition. Schools that were assigned to
receive a treatment program were then randomly assigned to either an additional
mentoring program for teachers or no mentoring program. Both of the
programs have a similar curriculum of building letter knowledge, phonological
awareness, and language and motivation to read. Both also had similar
structure; they used activity books, small group activities, and language
building activities. The programs differ in that the Let’s Begin program
focuses more on letter knowledge and phonological awareness. The control
group did not have any specific program but was provided with normal materials
that were used in the school. The programs occurred over the course of
the pre-kindergarten school year and children were assessed at pretest and
posttest. Children were assessed based on their auditory comprehension,
vocabulary, phonological awareness, letter and word identification, and sound
awareness.

Results: Overall, children exposed to either
curriculum did better than children in the control group, especially those in
Head Start programs. More specifically, children in the Let’s Begin
program had greater auditory comprehension gains than children in the control
group. There was more growth in language comprehension in Head Start
classes when compared with Title 1 and Universal Pre-K classes. The
program had no impact on language comprehension in Title 1 and Universal Pre-K
classes. There were greater increases in language skills in the Doors to
Discovery program compared with the Let’s Begin classrooms. The
researchers note that this finding may be due to the differences between
mentoring and non-mentoring assignment. In Title 1 classes, children in
the Let’s Begin program who were mentored outperformed children in the control
group, but the control group outperformed them if they did not have access to
the teacher-mentoring component.

Children in both treatment programs had larger improvements
in vocabulary than children in the control group. Again, those in the
Head Start classrooms improved more than Universal and Title 1
classrooms. Children in both treatment programs also had greater
improvement than those in the control condition on letter and word identification.
This impact was especially strong in Head Start classrooms.

The Let’s Begin program outperformed the Doors to Discovery
program when the mentoring component was added; but the Doors to Discovery
program had a greater impact than the Let’s Begin program when mentoring was
absent. Children in treatment classrooms experienced greater growth in
rhyming skills compared with those in the control condition. In Universal
Pre-K classrooms, children who received the Let’s Begin program experienced
greater growth in rhyming skills compared with the Doors to Discovery
program. Children in Head Start classrooms receiving either of the
interventions had larger improvements in phonological awareness than their
counterparts in the control condition.

Across most findings, the researchers noted that the Let’s
Begin with the Letter People program was enhanced by the mentoring program for
teachers, and that students in conditions whose teachers did not receive the
mentoring program did not improve as much as those whose teachers were
mentored.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Program curriculum and supplies are available for
purchase at:
 http://www.abramsandcompany.com/lets_begin_with_letter_people.aspx

References

Assel, M. A., Landry, S. H.,
Swank, P. R., & Gunnewig, S. (2007). An
evaluation of curriculum, setting, and mentoring on the performance of children
enrolled in pre-kindergarten. Readingand Writing, 20, 463-494.

Program categorized in this guide according to the
following:

Evaluated participant ages: pre-kindergarten / Program
age ranges in the Guide: early childhood

Program components:
child care/early childhood education; mentoring/tutoring; school-based

Measured outcomes: education and cognitive development

KEYWORDS: Early Childhood (0-5), Children (3-11), Black or
African American, Hispanic or Latino, White or Caucasian, Urban, Suburban,
Preschool, School-based, Child Care, Early Childhood Education, Mentoring,
Education, Academic Achievement

Program information last updated 10/26/07

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