With the Kasich Administration’s push for improved literacy skills among Ohio’s elementary students, many educators and analysts are keeping a keen eye on the development and assessment of reading programs. One national program, Project Sit Together and Read (STAR), is examined in the new research study by Shayne Piasta, Increasing Young Children’s Contact with Print during Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement. Piasta’s research measures the program’s effects on student literacy in pre-k to second grade. (See the U.S. Department of Education's review of the study.)

Project STAR is designed to develop students’ reading, spelling, and vocabulary skills. Teachers read aloud to students, but also use techniques to encourage kids to pay attention to the print on book pages. For example, a teacher may ask students about words or use a finger to follow along as words are read.

To measure the impact of these print focused techniques, researchers compared three groups in 85 preschool classrooms, composed mostly of socioeconomically disadvantaged students. One group received “high-dose” instruction, where Project STAR techniques were used in 120 reading sessions; the second “low-dose” group had just sixty reading sessions; the last group received regular instruction techniques. All groups received their instruction from the same books over a 30 week period.

The results are not surprising. When compared, students in the high-dose group had higher spelling abilities than those in the regular instruction group after two years. This can be expected, since practice and repeated exposure sharpen retention. What is interesting—and what Ohio educators should pay special attention to—is that students from the low dose group showed no vocabulary, reading, or spelling differences from those in the regular instruction group. In other words, simply presenting an intervention to kids means little if it is not effectively administered. Districts must be mindful of the rigor and the time spent in the program when developing early-childhood literacy initiatives. 

SOURCE: WWC Review of the Report: Increasing Young Children's Contact with Print during Shared Reading (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, October 2012).

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