Program

Aug 29, 2013

OVERVIEW

Project STAR is a school-based program for preschoolers that aims to improve children’s early reading, spelling, language, and comprehension skills by increasing the frequency of print-references teachers make during whole-class shared reading time.  The present random-assignment study compared a control group to two different frequencies (a “high dose” and a “low dose” condition) of treatment group programming at 1-and 2-year follow-ups.  Children who participated in the high dose condition of the program had significantly higher early reading, spelling, and comprehension skills than their peers in the control group did at both follow-up times.   The low dose condition had a marginally significant positive impact on children’s early word reading and spelling skills at the 1-year follow-up and a significant positive impact on spelling skills at the 2-year follow-up as compared to children in the control group.  Neither version of the program had a significant impact on children’s language skills.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Preschool-age children at risk for future reading difficulties

Project STAR is a school-based program for preschoolers that aims to improve children’s early reading, spelling, language, and comprehension skills by increasing the amount of print-references teachers make during shared reading.  The program is based on the concept that directing children’s attention to the four domains of print referencing — print meaning, book and print organization, letters, and words — during shared reading sessions will increase their knowledge about these domains and improve their long-term reading and language outcomes.  Specifically, the program targets children’s language, word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension skills.  To this end, program staff provide teachers with training in the form of an 8-hr fall workshop, a 3-hr winter ‘‘refresher’’ workshop, and two written feedback letters.  Through this training, teachers learn how to make both verbal (e.g., identifying a letter or word in the book) and non-verbal (e.g., following the text with their finger as they read) references to the four domains of print referencing during shared reading sessions.  Training is complemented by inserts in each of the 30 books provided to participating teachers, which list two recommended print targets for that book and suggestions for how to reference these targets; teachers are told to reference each target twice while reading the book to their class.

EVALUATION OF PROGRAM

Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child development83(3), 810-820.

Evaluated population: A total of 550 4-year-olds from 85 classrooms in pre-K programs that prioritized the enrollment of socioeconomically disadvantaged children across multiple states  participated in the study.  More than half (57 percent) of participating children’s families had incomes below $25,000 and a high school diploma was the highest level of education achieved by the majority (66 percent) of children’s mothers.  About half of participating children (44-54 percent) were female, and the average age at the beginning of the study was 4 years.  Participating children’s baseline language skills were found to be below average (based on assessments used in this study). Baseline comparisons showed no significant differences in children’s age, gender, level of maternal education, family income, or the proportion of children who participated in an extra year of preschool across the control group and two treatment conditions.

Approach: Classrooms were randomly assigned to either a “high dose” treatment group, a “low dose” treatment group, or to a control group.  In the “high dose” condition, teachers conducted four shared reading sessions each week, while in the “low dose” condition teachers conducted only two sessions per week.   All participating teachers were provided with 30 storybooks and asked to read one book each week during a shared reading session with the whole class.  Control group teachers were given no instructions about how to conduct these shared reading sessions.  An average of six children from each classroom were selected from among those who returned consent forms to receive assessments over the next three years. HLM modeling was used to account for clustering.  Attrition was 33 percent at the 2-year follow-up.

Baseline pre-literacy skills (namely, the ability to identify words that rhymed and knowledge of the alphabet) were assessed during the fall of pre-K.  Children’s language skills were assessed at the beginning and end of pre-K and at 1-and 2-year follow-ups; word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension skills were assessed at 1-and 2-year follow-ups.

Results: At the 1-year follow-up, children who had participated in the higher dose condition of Project STAR had significantly higher word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension skills than their peers in the control group .  Similarly, children in the lower dose condition had marginally higher, but nonsignificant, word reading and spelling skills, but not reading comprehension skills, than their peers in the control group.

At the 2–year follow-up, children in the higher dose condition of Project STAR had significantly higher word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension skills than their peers in the control group, an effect size ranging from .26-.31 across reading, spelling, and comprehension skills. Children in the higher dose condition also attained significantly higher word reading skills than their peers in the low dose treatment condition.  Children in the low dose condition had significantly higher spelling skills than their peers in the control group.  Neither treatment condition had a significant impact on children’s language skills at the end of pre-K or at the 1- and 2-year follow-ups; impacts were concentrated in reading, spelling, and reading comprehension.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

The program is not manualized and no cost information is currently available. 

References

Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child development83(3), 810-820.

KEYWORDS: Children, Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Males and Females (Co-ed), High-Risk, School-Based, Early Childhood Education, Reading/Literacy

Program information last updated on 8/29/13