Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Preschoolers' Attention to Print During Shared Book Reading.

Evans, M.A., Williamson, K., and Pursoo, T. (2008). Preschoolers' attention to print during shared 
            book reading. Scientific Studies of Reading 12(1), 106-129.

Percentage of time looking at print was 2% in the no pointing condition, however, attention increased with age. In the pointing condition, children looked at print more frequently. When controlling for receptive vocabulary, visual memory, and maturation, emergent orthography and letter-word identification predicted time looking at print and recognition of concepts about print.

Literature highlights: Benefits of shared storybook reading as noted in the literature: enhancement of cognitive and emotional development, interest in books, factual information about the world, enjoyment, oral and written language skills and success in reading. Meta analyses by Scarborough and Dobrich (1994) and Bus, van IJzendoorn, and Pellegrini (1995) support positive outcomes on language and literacy development. However, Senechal,  LeFevre, Thomas, and Daley (1998) found that oral language and vocabulary were enhanced by story reading, but they had no effect on acquiring reading skills except where directly taught (parent report of actual letter and word teaching.) Evans, Shaw and Bell (2000) found that the frequency of parent activities linked to teaching letter names, sounds and printing activities predicted knowledge of letter names, letter sounds, and phonological awareness while vocabulary development was related to frequency of shared book reading. Thus, vocabulary growth is a likely outcome but not the development of written language skills. Other studies used eye-tracking to determine the actual time spent looking at print in storybooks while being read to. Children infrequently fixated on the print spending less than 6% of their time looking at the words or 5 seconds out of 2 minutes worth of reading, regardless of the print features, color, and embedding in pictures. (Evans, Saint-Aubin, 2005; Justice, Skibbe, Canning, and Lankford, 2005). In fact, children rarely also comment on print but reserve questions and comments for pictures, story meaning, and word meaning (Shapiro, Anderson, and Anderson, 1997; van Kleeck, 2003; Yaden, Smolkin, and Conlon, 1993). Important note about studies: small sample sizes.

Goals of this study: examine age changes, individual differences, and effect of adult pointing to the words on attention to print in children aged 3-5 yrs during shared reading. This study altered selected print for visual salience. The methods of estimating attention were calculating the percentage of time children spent looking at the print during the entire reading of two books. Also gave children a recognition task to pick out cards that portrayed the altered print and aspects of the illustrations within the stories in order to determine relative attention to elements of the print and illustrations.

Study details
89 children initially in the study but final sample was 76 (equal boy/girl groups) ages 36-73 months at initial testing. Parental questionnaires  indicated mostly middle to upper middle class homes and less than 1/5 low income. 13% mothers & 18% fathers reported post-secondary education.

172 minutes average time per week reading to children. No significant differences between age groups in point to text or time spent reading to children.

Testing materials:
Woodcock-Johnson III Achievement
Measure of emergent orthography knowledge (Levy, Gong, Hessels, Evans, and Jared, 2006) assessed knowledge of print and spelling conventions. (paired matches with multiplicity of letters, spacing of letters, scribbles versus letters, letter like forms vs letters, and pictures vs letters with response to question: "Which one would your mommy or teacher be able to read?"
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III
Visual memory skills assessed with visual recognition subtest of british Ability Scales (1983).
 Home literacy Experiences Questionnaire (Evans, Levy, and Jared, 2001).

Results and Conclusions:
In non-pointing groups: Percentage of print-looking time predicted 16% of variance in print target recognition when the following were controlled: vocabulary, visual memory, emergent orthography, word-identification and maturation. No relationship between print-looking time and illustration cards.  Even without the sophisticated eye-tracker, results were replicated for those two studies mentioned above.  Young children spent very little time (6 sec) on avg looking at print  in a 2.5 minute reading however, there was slightly more attention to print among the oldest children. Children's emergent orthography and letter-word identification knowledge predicted variance in the amount of time looking at print, indicating their interest may have been due to emergent literacy skills.

Aspects of print that increased accuracy: icon/stylized elements associated with the print - arrow with detour printed on it. No increased attention to print in speech bubbles in illustrations. Unique tone of voice encouraged attention - children spontaneiously pointing to and imitating sounds from memory when they saw the stylized print, e.g., Whoo whoo! Written in bubblelike letters (logographic response).

Effect of pointing: children in all age groups spent significantly greater percentage of time looking at print than the control but it didn't improve the performance of the 3 yr olds in print recognition, suggesting that children with preliminary concepts about the shape of printed words may be more affected by finger-pointing. Cautious enthusiasm is the author's conclusion rather than this being a method of enhancing attention to print in trade books.

Storybook reading generally is a listening activity while looking at pictures than a time to learn about print. Children don't develop print skills merely from listening to books being read. However, some types of books lend themselves to discussion of print, such as alphabet books. Also, some parent behaviors help children focus on print during storybook reading, namely, finger pointing words while reading. this study did not address the benefits of children attending to print, just noted an increased amount of time looking at the word pages rather than the picture pages. The author suggests that it may be a preliminary way of helping children relate sounds to print if they can already identify letters and have some knowledge of phonemes, citing Ehri and Sweet, 1991; Uhry, 1999).  On the other hand, adult mediated printing and writing activities substantially enhance print knowledge in young children (Aram and Levin, 2004).

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