WWC review of this study

Shared Book Reading in an Early Start Program for At-Risk Children. Technical Report No. 504.

Mason, Jana M.; And Others (1990). Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED325202

  • Randomized controlled trial
    , grade

Reviewed: April 2015

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Language development outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Test of Early Language Development (TELD)

Shared Book Reading vs. Business as usual


4-year-old preschool children;
232 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 47%
    Male: 53%

  • Urban
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The study was conducted in 12 classes within two Early Start schools in a mid-sized urban setting. Early Start is a half-day developmental program in Illinois for 4-year-old children at risk for school failure, identified based on developmental screening, home visits, and family interviews.

Study sample

In the two schools, there were a total of six classrooms in the study, each with a morning and an afternoon class. In five of the classrooms, the same lead teacher taught both the morning and afternoon classes. In one classroom, a lead teacher taught the morning class and an aide taught the afternoon class. Therefore, a total of seven teachers participated in the study. Within each classroom, classes were randomized: one to the intervention condition and one to the comparison condition, so five teachers taught classes in both conditions. There were six intervention classes (three morning and three afternoon) and six comparison classes (three morning and three afternoon). At baseline, there were 240 four-year-old children: 123 intervention and 117 comparison. The analytic sample included 232 four-year-old children: 115 intervention and 117 comparison. In the intervention group, 45% of the children were female, compared to 49% in the comparison group. The study authors indicated that the groups had approximately equal numbers of African American and White children, and most were from families with low socioeconomic status (SES).

Intervention Group

Each classroom teacher used Little Books as a small group activity from mid-September to the end of the school year. For 28 weeks, the intervention was implemented as follows. Each week, the teacher focused on a different Little Book. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of a given week, the teacher read the book aloud with a small group of children and encouraged discussion of the book; children were also encouraged to read the book with the teacher, to each other, and by themselves as they became comfortable. The teacher gradually corrected mistakes. Friday culminated with a related activity, and children were each given a copy of the book to take home and share with their families.

Comparison Group

The comparison group did not have access to Little Books; they received instruction in all other literacy lessons and activities given to the intervention group. However, the common literacy lessons were slightly longer for the comparison group, as teachers in the intervention condition decreased the time spent on the standard lessons and activities to make time for Little Books.

Outcome descriptions

In the language development domain, the author used the TELD, which was administered in September/October (baseline) and again in April (posttest) of the school year. For a more detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

Two workshops and a follow-up visit were offered to teachers. In May of the prior school year, teachers and school personnel were introduced to Little Books and procedures for their use. In September, a workshop was held and follow-up visits were made when teachers began using Little Books to ensure fidelity.


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