Monday, December 12, 2011

Parental Involvement in the Development of Children's Reading Skill: A Five-Year Longitudinal Study

Senechal, M. & Lefevre, J. (2002). Parental involvement in the development of children's reading 
                 skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73(2), 445-460.

Children ordinarily exposed to 2 types of literacy experiences at home: informal lit activities, i.e., those with goal of sharing the message in print, e.g., story reading where parent elaborates on meaning of a text and child listens and/or engages in questions and observations; formal literacy activities - parent and child focus on the print, e.g., alphabet book, talk about letters, reading and writing words. Children whose parents believe in more structured literacy experiences tend to have stronger emergent literacy skills than less structured, more informal ones.

Objectives of this study: assess importance of storybook reading & parent reports of more formal teaching activities, assess relationship between early literacy experiences and reading acquisition, assess relation between early lit and fluent reading. cohorts of K and 1st grades followed up until gr. 3.

Details of study

  • 110 kindergarten children mixed ages of 4 & 5 and 58 first graders from Ottawa, Canada school district.
  • English speaking; K curriculum emphasized social skills, mostly Caucasian.
  • Parent education used as a control factor. Details: 91% of parents in the study reported having higher education beyond high school (above national percentage (56%) but closer to the norm for Ottawa residents 70%).
  • Literacy Experience Measures: Parent report on literacy experiences (1-5 scale from never to very often); children's literature titles knowledge measured - included pseudotitles; parent questionnaire re: home literacy experiences including storybook reading, number of children's books in the home, age at which they started to read to child, library visits, child initiated shared reading (measures didn't predict child outcomes so only storybook exposure used as index of reading); children shown illustrations from books and measured for memory of title - showed criterion validity as a measure of children's vocabulary - administered only to 1st gr cohort; parents exposure to adult literature used as indicator of their literacy level-used Stanovich-Cunningham Author Recognition Test.
  • Receptive Lang, phonological awareness, emergent literacy, analytic intelligence measures: PPVT-R for vocab; listening comp from SESAT (Stanford early school achievement test) included single measure of phonological awareness in a sound categorization task where children mateched words based on onsets or rhymes; emergent lit skills measured with Concepts about print test (Clay), alphabet knowledge, decoding test requiring reading simple consonant-vowel-consonant words where non-readers asked to sound out and blend if they didn't know the words; invented spelling measure designed to capture # of phonemes recorded in spellings; analytic intelligence measured with animal house subtest of Weschler P & P scale of Intelligence-R (1989).
  • Reading measures - end of gr 1: Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests (1992) tested on both word reading and reading comp. with letter-word identification and passage comp subtests of Woodcock-Johnson-R
  • Reading measures - end of gr 3: vocab and comp subtests of Gates-MacGinitie Reading tests because it was administered as a standardized test to all gr 3 children in school district


Statistically significant correlations between phonological awareness and the following measures:
Kindergarten Cohort
Letter knowledge
Invented spelling
Child analytic intelligence
Reading in gr 1
Reading in gr 3

1st gr Cohort
Child book exposure in gr 1
Reading in grade 3

  • Children's phonological awareness explained 30% of variance while receptive language predicted no variance in emergent literacy skills. Storybook exposure predicted receptive language and parent teaching predicted emergent literacy.
  • Receptive language not related to reading in gr 1 but emergent literacy & phonological awareness were. 
  • Early storybook exposure, not parent report of teaching reading skills enhanced children's vocabulary and listening comprehension both of which facilitate later fluent reading.
  • Measures of early home literacy experiences and parent teaching were uncorrelated. Similar findings by Evans et al. (2000). Experiences related to concepts about print were associated with the development of children's receptive language and teaching about reading and letters were associated with the development of emergent literacy skills.
  • Parent involvement was not directly related to later reading development but there was an indirect relationship between the two.
  • Receptive language and early literacy skills both related to phonological awareness. Receptive language and emergent literacy were not directly related to each other. Variables directly related to reading skills at the end of first grade were tied to PA and emergent literacy skills but for grade 3, the strongest correlation was receptive language and PA. Children's exposure to books at the end of gr 1 was directly related to reading in gr 4, consistant with  Cunningham & Stanovich findings in 91 & 98.

  • Parent role using storybook reading in the development of language skills reaffirmed. Parents should read to children before and after they acquire decoding skills. The relation between parents reports of teaching and children's early literacy consistent with perspective that home experiences predict acquisition of academic skills; however, little is known about the context of parent instruction of letters and words. Cunningham and Stanovich (1993) found that book exposure in gr 1 was correlated with reading skill. The authors propose further research into the contribution of continued parent-child reading vs child's own independent reading in the development of reading skills.
  • Various pathways that lead to fluent reading in the early grades appear to be rooted in the early literacy experiences of the home.

Cunningham, A. & Stanovich, K. (1993). The impact of print exposure on word recognition. In 
           J.L. Metsala and L. C. Ehri (Eds), Word recognition in beginning literacy (pp. 235-261).  
           Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Evans, M., Shaw, D., & Bell. (2000). Home literacy activities and their influence on early literacy 
           skills, Canadian Journal of experimental Psychology, 54, 65-75.

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