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Can Readability Formulas Be Used to Successfully Gauge Difficulty of Reading Materials?

Begeny, J. C. and Greene, D. J. (2014), Can Readability Formulas Be Used to Successfully Gauge Difficulty of Reading Materials? Psychology in the Schools, 51: 198–215.

Teachers, parents and textbook companies use technical "readability" formulas to determine how difficult reading materials are and to set reading levels by age group. This study from North Carolina State University shows that the readability formulas are usually inaccurate and offer little insight into which age groups will be able to read and understand a text. In the study, 360 students (grades 2-5) read six written passages out loud. The researchers assessed the students’ performance, giving each student an "oral reading fluency" score, which is considered a good metric for measuring reading ability. The researchers then used eight different readability formulas to see which level each formula gave to the six written passages. Results varied widely, with one passage being rated from first grade to fifth grade level. The levels assigned by the readability formulas were then compared with researchers’ assessments of each student’s actual ability to read the material. Seven of the eight readability formulas were less than 49 percent accurate, with the worst formula scoring only 17 percent accuracy. The highest-rated formula was accurate 79 percent of the time.

The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children

Naidoo, Jamie C. The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children, adopted by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) on April 5, 2014.

This white paper explores the critical role libraries play in helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society. The paper calls for libraries to include diversity in programming and materials for children as an important piece in meeting the informational and recreational needs of their community. The white paper also includes a comprehensive list of diversity resources, online collection development resources, awards for culturally diverse children’s literature, multicultural children’s program resources and more.

Effects of Reading to Infants and Toddlers on Their Early Language Development

Dunst, Carl J.; Simkus, Andrew; Hamby, Deborah W. (2012). Effects of Reading to Infants and Toddlers on Their Early Language Development. CELLreviews 5(4), Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute.

The effects of reading to infants and toddlers were examined in a meta-analysis of six intervention studies including 408 participants. Results indicated that interventions were effective in promoting the children's expressive and receptive language. The benefits of the interventions increased the earlier the interventions were started and the longer they were implemented. Implications of the findings for research and practice are described.

Repeated Book Reading and Preschoolers' Early Literacy Development

Trivette, C. M., Simkus, A., Dunst, C.J., Hamby, D.W. (2012). Repeated book reading and preschoolers’ early literacy development. CELL reviews, 5 (5).

The effects of repeated book reading on children's early literacy and language development were examined in this meta-analysis of 16 studies including 466 child participants. Results indicated that repeated book reading influenced both story-related vocabulary and story-related comprehension. Findings also showed that the adults' use of manipulatives or illustrations related to the story, positive reinforcement of children's comments, explanation concerning the story when asked, and open-ended questions to prompt child verbal responses were associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.

Increasing Young Children's Contact with Print During Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement

Piasta, S.B., Justice, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children's contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development, 83(3), 810-820.

This study examined the impact of Project STAR (Sit Together and Read) on literacy skills of preschool students. Project STAR is a program in which teachers read books aloud to their students and use instructional techniques designed to encourage children to pay attention to print within storybooks. Results of the study indicated a causal relationship between early print knowledge and later literacy skills.

Print Books vs. E-books

Chiong, C., Ree, J., & Takeuchi, L. (2012). Print books vs. e-books. Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

This initial small-scale study explored parent–child interactions as they read print and digital books together. How do adults and children read e-books compared to print books? How might the nature of parent-child conversations differ across platforms? Which design features of e-books appear to support parent-child interaction? Do any features detract from these interactions?

Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations With Children's Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten

Rodriguez, Eileen; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S. (2011) Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations With Children's Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten. Child Development 82(4).

A study that looked at the home environments of more than 1,850 children from households at or below the federal poverty line showed that factors such as levels of shared reading, exposure to frequent and varied adult speech, and access to children's books had an impact on school readiness skills. "As a parent, it is never too early to engage your child in learning," said Amber Story, a social psychologist and deputy director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, which funded the study. "This research suggests that the degree to which parents read and talk to their infant; point and label objects in the environment; and provide engaging books and toys when their child is only 15 months old can have long-lasting effects on the infant's language skills years later."

Text Matters in Learning to Read

Heibert, E.H. (1999). Text matters in learning to read (Distinguished Educators Series). Reading Teacher, 52, 552-566. Retrieved June 28, 2005, from CIERA Rep. No. 1-001.

This report examines texts based on high-frequency and phonetically regular words as well as the trade books of current literature-based reading programs. It considers each type of text by examining the task it poses for beginning readers. What does a beginning reader need to know about written English to be successful with a particular type of text? What will a beginning reader learn about text if consistently presented with a particular type of text? From a task perspective, consistent reading of particular types of texts can be likened to a diet where children eat particular food groups but not others. Through experiences with particular texts, children may be acquiring some nutrients (or skills) and not others. This article addresses the diets provided to beginning readers by different instructional texts. To paraphrase Allington (1994), the three sections of the paper deal with (a) the texts used, (b) the texts had, and (c) the texts needed.

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln