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Preschool Teacher Practices and the Prevention of Reading Difficulties

  • Author(s): Raher, Katie Schmidt
  • Advisor(s): Cunningham, Anne E
  • et al.

This study was conducted to expand the field's understanding of how various preschool teacher practices can foster emergent literacy growth as needed to prevent widespread reading difficulties and how teachers' educational backgrounds can influence the use of such practices. Utilizing a national dataset from the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research project, hierarchical linear modeling was employed to examine the relationship between 259 teachers' practices and 1,723 students' oral language, phonological awareness, and print knowledge growth from fall to spring of the preschool year. Data was collected at 18 geographical sites across the country. A number of statistically significant relationships were observed between children's development in critical emergent literacy domains and teachers' language and literacy instructional practices (i.e., book reading practices, oral language use, phonological awareness instruction, and print and letter knowledge instruction), differentiated instruction planning, and teacher-child social interactions. The effects of teachers' practices were specific to each emergent literacy outcome, and a few findings suggest that the quality, rather than the quantity, of instruction may be more important for certain child outcomes. Some significant Child X Instruction effects were also found. Optimal book reading practices were found to be exceptionally beneficial for children who start the year with far below average (below the 5th percentile) oral language skills, and children with below average (below the 10th percentile) print knowledge skills at preschool entry benefitted more considerably when their teachers adeptly planned differentiated instruction. Furthermore, differentiated instruction planning and less permissiveness were both observed to moderate the effect that book reading practices had on children's print knowledge gains. Despite the evidence that a comprehensive repertoire of teacher practices is needed to alter children's emergent literacy developmental trajectories toward greater reading success, average national teacher practices were less than ideal. Although teachers' educational backgrounds were generally found to have no substantial relationship with teachers' practices, a positive relationship between specific coursework in early childhood education and aspects of teachers' language and literacy instruction was observed. Possible reasons for teachers' current implementation of practices are explored, and implications for future research, practice, and policy are discussed.

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