Program

Oct 26, 2016

OVERVIEW

Raising a Reader (RAR) is an early childhood education program designed to increase literacy and family engagement among at-risk children. The program includes teacher training, two parent education sessions that teach shared reading techniques, and a take-home book rotation among participating children. A randomized controlled trial of RAR found that adding RAR with parent engagement activities to an already existing curricula led to significant improvements on the two cognitive outcome measures examined – oral language and print knowledge – particularly for children who were behind at baseline in readiness for school.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Preschool children in programs primarily serving minority populations of low socioeconomic status (SES)

Raising a Reader (RAR) is an early childhood education program developed by a nonprofit organization of the same name. It was developed to increase children’s literacy by engaging families to be active agents in creating a literacy-rich home environment. Each student in a RAR program receives a book bag with four unique books to bring home for the week. Each following week, the bags are rotated among students so that over the course of several weeks children will have had exposure to many books. Teachers are trained by a RAR-coordinator on the logistics of the book rotation system as well as the contents of the teacher handbook that describes reading strategies, classroom instructional strategies, and take-home activities. Parents of children in RAR programs attend two meetings per year; at the first meeting they are introduced to the program’s core principles and recommended reading techniques, and at the second meeting they meet local librarians, receive library cards, and again discuss shared reading techniques. The RAR program has been implemented in over 2,500 locations across the United States. Implementing sites are able to partner with the RAR organization to tailor book selections to represent specific values or population characteristics (such as multicultural themes, Spanish-English bilingual text, etc.). The program materials, including books and technical support, cost approximately $110 per child to launch. Since materials can be used year after year, the annual cost per child over a five-year period is roughly $40. More information can be found on the RAR website at http://www.raisingareader.org/.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Anthony, J. L., Williams, J. M., Zhang, Z., & Landry, S. H. (2014). Experimental evaluation of the value added by Raising a Reader and supplemental parent training in shared reading. Early Education and Development25, 493–514.

Evaluated population: Participants in this evaluation came from 91 preschool classrooms in 37 schools in Texas. The sample was comprised of 617 children over the course of four years. All participating children were native English speakers and attended preschools that served minority populations of low SES. Fifty-one percent of the participants were girls. The age range of participants was 37 to 69 months at the time of the pretest at the beginning of the school year; most children were four years old at the time of the pretest. The sample was 54 percent African American, 27 percent Hispanic or Latino American, 14 percent Caucasian, four percent multiracial, and one percent other ethnicities.

Approach: There have been 21 evaluations of RAR, only one of which is a random controlled trial. (See here for a discussion of non-RCT evaluations of RAR.) This evaluation investigated the impact of adding two versions of RAR to the already existing Texas Early Education Model (TEEM). TEEM consists of professional development, research-based curricula, ongoing mentoring, and monitoring of students’ academic progress. TEEM has demonstrated efficacy in increasing school readiness but lacks a family involvement component. Over the course of four years, the study classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: TEEM alone (TEEM), TEEM plus Raising a Reader (TEEM+RAR), or TEEM plus RAR augmented by Family Nights (TEEM+RAR+FN). Family Nights consisted of five family workshops on interactive reading techniques that were added to  RAR since researchers considered RAR’s parent education component underdeveloped. Family Nights included five monthly meetings in which parents were trained in shared reading strategies that promoted verbal exchanges and then had supervised time to practice the techniques with their children.

An average of seven randomly selected students from each classroom participated in the evaluation; 543 children completed assessments of oral language and print knowledge at the beginning and end of the school year. Analyses were performed using multilevel models to control for classroom nesting and individual differences in raw scores at pretest. Analyses were also performed to rule out demographic differences between groups, but it was found that the three groups were not identical in terms of age and ethnicity. Those in the TEEM+RAR+FN group were, on average, two months older than children in the TEEM+RAR group, and there were relatively fewer African American participants and relatively more Hispanic/Latino American participants in the TEEM group compared with the other two groups. Parents of participating children in all three conditions were asked to complete parent surveys at the beginning and at the end of the school year as well; the survey assessed family involvement in literacy activities such as frequency of shared reading, frequency of library visits, breadth of library services utilized, and frequency of attending parent meetings at the school.

Results: No significant differences were found between classrooms in the TEEM condition and classrooms in the TEEM+RAR condition on the two outcomes examined – oral language and print knowledge. However, the model of RAR that included Family Nights led to significantly higher posttest scores compared with TEEM+RAR on measures of oral language, such as vocabulary, grammar, and sentence memory, and print knowledge, such as the ability to distinguish letters from miscellaneous characters and distinguish words from numeric strings and illustrations. (In response to this evaluation, RAR has added more family workshops to its model.)

The impact of adding Family Nights to RAR was moderated by children’s initial status in receptive grammar, print knowledge, and expressive vocabulary. Within the TEEM+RAR+FN condition, children who tested low on the pretest in these domains showed particularly strong gains at posttest, suggesting that the addition of Family Nights to RAR accelerated the closing of an achievement gap. However, parent surveys found that parents in all three groups did not differ in reports of how often they took their children to the library, how many books they had at home, or how often they read with their children.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact Information for Evaluation:

Jason L. Anthony, PhD

Department of Developmental Pediatrics

University of Texas Health Science Center

7000 Fannin Street, Suite 2377

Houston, TX 77030

Jason.L.Anthony@uth.tmc.edu

For Curriculum:

http://www.raisingareader.org/

References

Anthony, J. L., Williams, J. M., Zhang, Z., & Landry, S. H. (2014). Experimental evaluation of the value added by Raising a Reader and supplemental parent training in shared reading. Early Education and Development25, 493–514.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Preschool, Males and Females (Co-ed), High-Risk, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, School-based, Cost Information is Available, Parent or Family Component, Parent Training/Education, Early Childhood Education, Skills Training, Reading/Literacy, Academic Achievement/Grades

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