A total of 59 elementary schools in seven North Carolina public school districts participated in this study, including 39 high-poverty schools (75%–100% free- and reduced-price lunch;
FRL) and 20 moderate-poverty schools (61%–74% FRL). The participating schools were located in two metropolitan school districts including suburban and central city schools, three mid-sized urban districts, and two rural districts. Teachers and students from grade 2 and 3 general education classrooms participated in the study, which aimed to improve reading comprehension.
Just over half (51%) of students in the sample were female, while a majority (78%) were eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch. About 16 percent were described as having limited English proficiency. The student sample included 21% of students identifying as Hispanic, 40% identifying as Black, 23% identifying as White, and 16% identifying as some other race.
The intervention included three main components: end-of-year lessons, an end-of-year family literacy night, and books for summer reading. Teachers of students in the intervention condition taught six reading lessons with these students near the end of the school year.The end-of-year lessons were based on recommendations from the What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide on improving reading comprehension for students in grades K-3. During the lessons, teachers (a) modeled how to use a before, during, and after reading comprehension routine tailored to narrative or expository texts, (b) asked literal and inferential questions to promote discussion during read-alouds, (c) taught children to apply these activities to multiple genres of texts, and (d) created a motivational context that promoted children’s engagement with lesson books.
The after-school family literacy event was designed to provide parents of students in the intervention group with information about the comprehension activities that students were encouraged to use with books mailed home over the summer.The event occurred after teachers had begun implementing classroom lessons, but before the end of the school year. At the event, students and their parents had an opportunity to use the content-based prediction routine prior to receiving matched books in the mail during the summer months. Specifically, parents learned that their children would receive books in the mail and were expected to complete before- and after-reading activities on a trifold that included these activities. Facilitators at the event asked parents to be involved with their child’s home reading activities in four ways, as expressed by the acronym EATS: (a) Encourage your child to read their matched books received in the mail; (b) Ask whether they completed the trifold; (c) Talk with your child about the books; and (d) Send back the trifolds after your child reads the books and answers the comprehension questions. Children also recited a reading pledge and received medals.
Students in the intervention group also received 10 books in the mail at their home over the summer, including 8 matched books and 2 lesson books that were used in the end-of-year lessons. The researchers used a computer algorithm to identify books that were matched to each student’s reading skill level and reading interests. Each child’s reading skill levels were measured using the spring baseline reading comprehension test (ITBS), which were translated into Lexiles, a proprietary system designed to align reading skills with the difficulty of children’s books.
Teachers of students in the comparison condition taught six math lessons with these students near the end of the school year. The math lessons were developed by a professor of mathematics education and were based on a unit using a problem-based learning framework.
Support for implementation
Teachers for the intervention group participated in a two-hour after-school training session, which was led teachers who were trained by the research staff. During the training,
teachers received a lesson plan for each of the six end-of-year lessons and accompanying materials. The trainers began by explaining the goals and purpose of the lessons, walked teachers through the lesson procedures, modeled the lessons, answered questions, and offered the teachers an opportunity to ask follow-up questions via e-mail or phone prior to and during the week when the lessons were scheduled. Trainers emphasized the importance of adhering to the lesson scripts. Teachers were instructed to complete lesson logs after each of the six lessons.