New learning intervention for kindergartners emphasizes parents' role

Feb 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Penn State researchers have developed an innovative intervention program for families who have kindergarten children at risk for poor school performance. The intervention emphasizes parental involvement in the at-home learning process, and resulted from a study funded with a $3 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

" who enter grade school with cognitive and social-emotional delays are at an increased risk for reading problems, academic underachievement, and becoming disengaged or disinterested in school," said Janet Welsh, research associate, Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development. "Our goal in developing this intervention was to improve parent support for child learning at home, thereby fostering gains in child oral language skills, emergent literacy skills and adaptive approaches to learning."

The intervention, called Focus on Learning, integrates approaches that strengthen academic and behavioral skills in children. Past studies have shown that both sets of skills are important when it comes to doing well and staying engaged in school.

Families receive a laptop computer containing applications and that build vocabulary and reading skills. Walsh and her colleagues found these applications for the laptop to be the best approach for building skills into a child's daily life.

"We tried to be mindful of what parents are or are not able to do when we designed the intervention," said Welsh. "Oftentimes what teachers can do differs from what parents can do. Many parents have low literacy themselves. To say they need to read to their kids is not always the most effective approach."

To address literacy issues, the researchers designed the program so that parents do not need to read word for word from the page. Instead, they use a technique known as "dialogic reading," which encourages parents to engage in a discussion with their children about what is happening on each page. This technique can also strengthen communication between parent and child. The intervention books -- designed specifically for the program -- contain important social themes, such as problems young children face at home and at school.

Because poor academic performance has been linked to aggressive behavior in some children, in the intervention will also receive coaching lessons on how to use positive discipline strategies, and manage noncompliant and aggressive behavior in children.

The researchers will monitor children's academic progress until they reach at least third grade, and also will assess parents' support and involvement in their children's learning. Nearly 300 kindergarten children from York, Juniata and Mifflin counties in Pennsylvania will participate in the randomized evaluation of the intervention, which will receive funding until 2014.

Other key Penn State faculty members involved in the study include Karen Bierman, distinguished professor of psychology, and Scott Gest, associate professor of human development and family studies.

Explore further: Can video games make your brain level up?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Reasons explored for making child repeat first grade

Jan 13, 2010

Reasons for requiring a child to repeat the first grade may go far beyond the basic "three R's," reveals a study by two Texas A&M University education psychologists. They say parents must often shoulder at least part of the ...

Recommended for you

Cyber buddy is better than 'no buddy'

14 hours ago

A Michigan State University researcher is looking to give exercise enthusiasts the extra nudge they need during a workout, and her latest research shows that a cyber buddy can help.

Offenders turn to mental health services 

20 hours ago

Adult criminal offenders in Western Australian are eight times more likely than non-offenders to use community-based mental health services in the year before their first sentence, a UWA study has found.

Deliberation is staunchest ally of selfishness

20 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Over the last two years, Yale psychologist David Rand and colleagues have investigated what makes people willing to help each other. Their latest research shows that while initial reactions ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Rising role seen for health education specialists

(HealthDay)—A health education specialist can help family practices implement quality improvement projects with limited additional financial resources, according to an article published in the March/April ...

FDA proposes first regulations for e-cigarettes

The federal government wants to prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration.

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.

Brazil enacts Internet 'Bill of Rights'

Brazil's president signed into law on Wednesday a "Bill of Rights" for the digital age that aims to protect online privacy and promote the Internet as a public utility by barring telecommunications companies ...