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Bridging the Early Literacy Gulf

Kathleen Campana and Eliza Dresang

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


The results of this research demonstrate that public libraries can play a significant role in bridging the large gap between children's difficulty and success in learning to read. This study assessed the impact of early literacy training for in-home childcare workers. The researchers used a pretest-posttest experimental design with childcare workers randomly assigned. The intervention consisted of training treatment group childcare providers in early literacy principles and activities that could foster specific early literacy skills. The training was provided by staff of the Pierce County [WA] Library System. The impact was assessed through two different methods. The providers responded to pre-post surveys about their early literacy knowledge and activities within their childcare. These surveys were examined for any change between the pre and postsurvey responses. The impact on the 86 three and four year olds within the childcares was measured through a pre and post one-on-one assessment using Early Literacy Skills Assessment (ELSA) developed by Highscope. Researchers from the University of Washington Information School trained library staff in data collection methods, provided guidance in proper research procedures, analyzed data, and reported results.

The intervention had statistically significant results with demonstrated growth in the children's competence related to 3 of the 4 early literacy principles and in the variety of activities related to literacy principles that the providers implemented. This study begins to fill a research gap because despite a decade of emphasis on early literacy virtually no scientific studies relating to libraries' impact on early literacy competency exist. Such studies are essential to libraries both in program planning and in securing financial support.

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