The effects of a specialist reading intervention on children's literacy and behaviour.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Early reading skills are the foundation of children’s academic success (Lonigan et al., 1999). Unfortunately reading difficulties are highly prevalent in school children (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007) and can have significant and long-lasting negative impacts on academic, social, and vocational achievement (Sylva & Hurry, 1996). A link between difficulties in reading and behaviour problems has also been widely noted in the literature. Few studies have, however, examined the impact of reading interventions on both reading and behaviour skills for children, particularly for children with mild to moderate behavioural issues. This is an important area of research in determining the effects of literacy intervention, and disentangling the complex relationship between reading and behavioural difficulties. Accordingly, the current study aimed to monitor the effectiveness of a specialist reading intervention on children's literacy skills and behaviour.
The research employed a multiple case study design, and was separated into three phases (a pre-testing phase, intervention phase, and post-test phase). Participants consisted of 11 students from two Christchurch Primary schools who had difficulties in reading, as well as five teachers, two literacy teachers, and one teacher aide. Four participants, who exhibited more severe behaviour (as identified by their teacher on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) at pre-test, were selected as case study participants. Case study participants’ literacy teachers provided additional information regarding the students’ behaviour. All participants completed pre- and post-literacy (reading and spelling) and phonological awareness assessments and students were observed in the classroom setting. Teachers also completed surveys in regards to the students’ classroom behaviour over the course of the intervention.
The Agility with Sound intervention primarily targets phonological awareness and application of phonological decoding strategies in reading. The intervention also focuses on vocabulary development and reading comprehension. At School 1, participants attended four, 1 hour sessions each week as a small-group. At School 2, participants attended three sessions each week for 30 minutes. Differences in intervention scheduling and content across the two schools restricted the research design that could be employed to establish the effects of the specialist teaching.
Results showed that the majority of participants showed an increase in raw score for the Letter-word Identification (n=11), Word Attack (n=7), and Helen Arkell Spelling Test (n=9), indicating that the research intervention had a significant, positive impact on children’s word identification, decoding, and spelling skills. No significant differences were found between pre- and post-test measures of behaviour, however, qualitative data from teachers indicated that for four participants, some change in classroom behaviour was evident following intervention.
Findings from case study students indicated that Participant 9 who had the most reported difficulties during literacy sessions (as reported by her literacy teacher), demonstrated the least progress in literacy; demonstrating decreases in spelling and reading raw scores following the intervention period. The remaining case study participants all demonstrated increases in reading, spelling, and phonological awareness (with the exception of Participant 3 who showed no change in phonological awareness). All participants (with the exception of Participant 11 whose teacher-report of classroom behaviour remained the same from pre- to post-test) also demonstrated decreased raw scores in observation of problem classroom behaviours and teacher-reports of problem classroom behaviours over the course of the intervention period. A correlation analysis did not show a significant association between change in literacy and change in classroom behaviour following the intervention period.
The current research supports the use of Agility with Sound for enhancing school children’s literacy skills, and highlights the importance of combining literacy and behavioural intervention to enhance both literacy and classroom behaviour skills for children with co-morbid difficulties.