This study was conducted in kindergarten classrooms across rural and urban locations in Newfoundland, Canada.
The study sample included 40 Newfoundland schools divided into three groups: rural (drawing students from one small community), rural collector (drawing students from a number of small communities), and small urban communities. From each of these groups, four schools were randomly selected to participate in the study, each randomly assigned to one of four study conditions: those that used Little Books at home, used Little Books at home and school, used Little Books at school only, and did not use Little Books (comparison group). The study began with 325 students attending 18 kindergarten classes at 12 schools. The analysis sample included 314 students. The area in which the study was conducted has the highest rate of basic and functional illiteracy in Canada and consistently scores below the Canadian national norm on standardized tests.
Three variations of the Little Books intervention were studied, those that used the program at home only, at school only, or both at home and at school. All three used the Little Books, which use high-frequency words, simple sentences, and thematic topics with which children are familiar. For the home group, school staff gave a new book to each child at the start of each week for the child to take home and read with parents. For the school group, a different book was introduced by teachers each week, and approximately 10–15 minutes each day were devoted to the materials. For the school and home group, the school-only procedures were followed and at the end of each week the teachers sent the Little Book home.
The control condition used the standard language development program for Newfoundland, Canada.
This review focuses on the results for the Metropolitan Readiness Test (see Appendix A2.1 for a more detailed description of outcome measures). Results for the Emergent Literacy Concepts Test, a test designed for the study, are not included in this review because of unequal testing conditions between the interventions and comparison groups. The posttest included a section that asked students to read words that came from the Little Books, so students in the intervention condition had exposure to these words before the posttest was administered. It is unknown whether or not the comparison condition students had exposure to the words. The authors also used the CIRCUS Listen to the Story test, which is an assessment of oral comprehension and thus falls outside the domains included in the WWC beginning reading review.
Support for implementation
Parents and teachers were trained to use the Little Books. Parents were shown a video in which a parent and child worked with several books. Guidelines were provided by the developers, which gave suggestions about setting up a comfortable reading arrangement, discussing the main idea of the book, reading the book aloud, and eliciting the child to read. Suggestions were also made for use of particular books. Teachers attended a workshop in which they were encouraged to spend 10–15 minutes each day with the Little Books. They were given a specific instructional procedure that involved an opening, modeling, tryouts, and a closing. They were asked to introduce and read the book to the whole class, then work with smaller groups of children reading the book for the next three days. The last day, they were to ask each child to read the Little Book.