Language and literacy skills during the preschool years are the foundations for children’s future reading achievement. A recent follow-up study by Bleses and colleagues investigated the longitudinal effectiveness of an early childhood language and literacy intervention, SPELL, on reading skills through second grade in Denmark.
SPELL, short for Structured Preschool Efforts in Language and Literacy, was adapted from a whole-class shared book reading intervention, called Read It Again-PreK, targeting four domains of language and literacy skills: vocabulary, narrative, print knowledge, and phonological awareness. The SPELL intervention was adapted to the Danish context and language, involving 20-week small-group sessions, twice a week. The original SPELL randomized controlled trial involved 561 teachers and 7,076 children in a total of 144 childcare centers. The childcare centers were randomly assigned to four conditions: SPELL, SPELL + professional development (PD), SPELL + HOME, and business-as-usual (BAU). In this follow-up study, the sample was limited to only include subjects who were 4- or 5- year-old children (n=2,700) in the original SPELL RCT study.
The follow-up study used the reading test results of the Danish National Tests as the measurement for grade 2 reading skills, including language comprehension, word decoding, and reading comprehension.
- No significant effects were found for students who were assigned to any of the three SPELL conditions compared to those who were in the BAU condition.
- Children’s characteristics (i.e., age and gender) and family backgrounds (i.e., immigrant status, income, and mother’s educational level) displayed different treatment effects on children’s reading outcomes. Immigrant children benefited more than ethnic Danish in the SPELL + PD condition in language comprehension (ES = +0.48).
- The effects on children whose mothers had low-mid educational levels were sustained and large in all three SPELL treatment groups.
Although the effects of interventions may fade out completely when evaluating the full sample, at-risk children (e.g., children with immigrant backgrounds, and children with mothers with low educational levels) could have long-term benefits from early language and literacy interventions implemented in early childhood education settings.
Source (Open Access): Bleses, D., Dale, P. S., Justice, L., Højen, A., Vind, B. D., & Jiang, H. (2021). Sustained effects of an early childhood language and literacy intervention through second grade: Longitudinal findings of the SPELL trial in Denmark. PLOS ONE, 16(10), e0258287. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0258287