Research by Topic
Early literacy and preschool
Below are selected research studies that investigate issues important to preschool. The resources are listed alphabetically by author and include links to the item or to where it can be purchased.
Joint Book Reading Makes for Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of Literacy
Bus, A.G., Van Ijzendoorn, M.H., & Pellegrini, A.D. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65, 1-21.
Results of a quantitative analysis of empirical evidence related to parent-preschooler reading support the hypothesis that parent-preschooler reading is related to outcome measures such as language growth, emergent literacy, and reading achievement. Book reading apparently affects acquisition of the written language register.
Early Reading Acquisition and its Relation to Reading Experience and Ability 10 Years Later
Cunningham, A.E., & Stanovich, K.E. (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.
A group of 1st-graders who were administered a battery of reading tasks in a previous study were followed up as 11th graders. Ten years later, they were administered measures of exposure to print, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and general knowledge. First-grade reading ability was a strong predictor of all of the 11th-grade outcomes and remained so even when measures of cognitive ability were partialed out. First-grade reading ability (as well as 3rd- and 5th-grade ability) was reliably linked to exposure to print, as assessed in the 11th grade, even after 11th-grade reading comprehension ability was partialed out, indicating that the rapid acquisition of reading ability might well help develop the lifetime habit of reading, irrespective of the ultimate level of reading comprehension ability that the individual attains. Finally, individual differences in exposure to print were found to predict differences in the growth in reading comprehension ability throughout the elementary grades and thereafter.
The Long Term Economic Benefits of High Quality Early Childhood Intervention Programs
Diefendorf, M., & Goode, C. The long-term economic benefits of high quality early childhood intervention programs. NECTAC Clearinghouse on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. Chapel Hill, NC: NECTAC.
An extensive body of research indicates that high quality early intervention for at-risk infants, toddlers and young children and their families is a sound economic investment. Studies have found a number of long-term cost savings in terms of decreased grade repetition, reduced special education spending, enhanced productivity, lower welfare costs, increased tax revenues, and lower juvenile justice costs. This mini-bibliography provides a selection of articles, reports, and book chapters that review some of the major findings on this topic. Some of the included studies focus on services for young children with disabilities, although most address early intervention for children who are at risk for adverse developmental outcomes due to poverty and other environmental factors.
Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers
Fuller, B, Gasko, J, Anguiano, R. (2010). Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers. Children's Learning Institute.
This report focuses on helping pre-K teachers develop skills that matter for early learning. The researchers identified mentoring and training for preschool teachers as important tools to help them enrich their instructional activities in classrooms and boost the early language and preliteracy skills of 3- and 4-year-olds.
Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort
Halle, T., Forry, N., Hair, E., Perper, K., Wandner, L., Wessel, J., & Vick, J. (2009). Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). Washington, DC: Child Trends.
This study suggests that cognitive gaps between poor and middle class children show up as early as 9-24 months — and that income and the mother's education are the two biggest risk factors. The report recommends very early intervention for at-risk kids (starting at birth), as well as initiatives to support high school and college graduation programs for the parents an d professional development for at-home child care providers.
Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children
Hart, B. and Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experiences of young American children. Brookes Publishing Company.
The landmark longitudinal study of parent-child talk in families. The researchers recorded one full hour of every word spoken at home between parent and child in 42 families over a three year period, with children from seven months to 36 months of age. Follow-up studies by Hart and Risley of those same children at age nine showed that there was a very tight link between the academic success of a child and the number of words the child's parents spoke to the child to age three.
- See summary (110K PDF)*
How Words Can and Cannot Be Learned by Observation
Medinaa, TN, Snedekerc, J, Trueswella, J, & Gleitmana, G. (2011). How words can and cannot be learned by observation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(22), 9014-9019.
"If language experiences are not rich, then where is your interest to retain them?" says Janice H. Im of Zero to Three: the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. A new study from University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University suggests that understanding basic words may come from a flash of initial insight more than repetition. The study's findings suggest that children build concrete vocabulary by interacting with a complex, rich learning environment, not just repeated exposure to words in isolation.
Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study: Final Report
Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (2012). Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study: Final Report Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Washington, D.C.
This evaluation studied children who entered the Head Start program in the fall of 2002. The final report presents impacts on children and families through the children's third grade year, as well as impacts on subgroups of children and families. Researchers examined several developmental areas, including measures of cognitive, social-emotional, language and literacy, and health outcomes. They found that Head Start improved the preschool experience of participating children, but the program had "few impacts on children in kindergarten through 3rd grade." Researchers concluded, that there was little evidence of systematic differences in children's elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.
Early Executive Function Predicts Reasoning Development
Richland, L. E., & Burchinal, M. R. (2013). Early Executive Function Predicts Reasoning Development. Psychological Science, 24, 87-92.
New research findings from the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrate that children begin to show signs of higher-level thinking skills as early as 4.5 years of age. Using large-scale longitudinal data from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development study, the authors examined tests children took at age 4.5, when they were in first grade, third grade, and at age 15. Findings showed a strong relationship between high scores among children who, as preschoolers, had strong vocabularies and were good at monitoring and controlling their responses (executive function) to later ability on tests of understanding analogies. Research suggests that executive function may be trainable through pathways such as preschool curriculum, exercise, and impulse control training.
Family and Neighborhood Sources of Socioeconomic Inequality in Children's Achievement
Sastry, Narayan, and A.R. Pebley. 2010. "Family and Neighborhood Sources of Socioeconomic Inequality in Children's Achievement." Demography, 47(3): 777-800.
Researchers examined family and neighborhood sources of socioeconomic inequality in children's reading and mathematics achievement using data from the 2000-2001 Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. The researchers found no inequality in children's achievement by family income when other variables in the model were held constant. Mother's reading scores and average neighborhood levels of income accounted for the largest proportion of inequality in children's achievement. Neighborhood economic status appears to be strongly associated with children's skills acquisition.
Sulzby, E. & Teale, W.H. (1991). Emergent literacy. In R. Barr, M.L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, and P.D. Pearson (Eds.) Handbook of Reading Research: Vol. 2 (pp. 727-757). New York: Longman.
Preschool Curriculum: What's in It for Children and Teachers?
The Albert Shanker Institute (2009). Preschool Curriculum: What's in It for Children and Teachers? Washington, D.C.: The Albert Shanker Institute
A new report from the Albert Shanker Institute outlines developmental accomplishments and instructional practices in four areas of preschool curriculum: oral language, literacy, mathematics, and science. Their recommendations can inform districts struggling to design a preschool program or provide guidelines for program evaluation.
Head Start Impact Study
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (January 2010). Head Start Impact Study. Final Report. Washington, DC.
A study about the impact of Head Start shows that at the end of one program year, access to Head Start positively influenced children's school readiness. However, when measured again at the end of kindergarten and first grade, the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied.
Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications
W. Steven Barnett (2008). Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications. National Institute for Early Education Research Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
All children benefit from preschool, and increasing the public's investment in effective preschool can have lasting educational, social, and economic benefits. Recommendations for capitalizing on these conclusions include using proven models, training preschool teachers, and working to increase the number of disadvantaged kids attending preschool.
Degrees in Context: Asking the Right Questions about Preparing Skilled and Effective Teachers of Young Children
Whitebook, M. & Ryan, S. 2011. Degrees in context: Asking the right questions about preparing skilled and effective teachers of young children. Preschool Policy Brief, 22. National Institute for Early Education Research, New Brunswick, NJ.
A 2011 policy brief developed jointly by National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) argues that there has been too much focus on debating baseline qualifications such as AA and BA degrees for teachers of young children and not enough focus on the actual education these teachers receive, the support they get for ongoing learning, and the effects of the workplace environment on their teaching practice.
Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study: Fifth Grade Follow-Up
Barnett, W.S., Jung, K., Youn, M. J. & Frede, E.C. (2013) Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study: Fifth Grade Follow-Up. National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers — The State University of New Jersey.
Findings from the latest study of New Jersey's Abbott Preschool Program showed that children in the state's most disadvantaged communities who participated in the preschool program made significant gains in literacy, language, math and science through 4th and 5th grade. The study found larger gains for children who participated in two years of the preschool program. Additionally, participation was linked to lower retention rates and fewer children needing special education. These findings build on previous results from kindergarten entry and second grade follow-up.
30 Year Follow-up Study Shows Benefits of High Quality Early Childhood Care and Education
Campbell, F. A., Pungello, E. P., Burchinal, M., Kainz, K., Pan, Y., Wasik, B. H., Barbarin, O. A., Sparling, J. J., and Ramey, C.T. (2012) Adult outcomes as a function of an early childhood educational program: An Abecedarian Project follow-up. Developmental Psychology.
New findings from the long-running, highly regarded Abecedarian Project, led by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill show that adults who participated in the high quality early childhood education program in the 1970s are still benefitting in a variety of ways. For example, at age 30, Abecedarian Project participants had significantly more years of education than the control group and were four times more likely to have earned college degrees (23% of participants compared to only 6% of the control group).
Family Literacy: A Review of Programs and Critical Perspectives
Caspe, M. (2003). Family literacy: A review of programs and critical perspectives (Family Involvement Research Digest). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.
For over 20 years educational policies have promoted family literacy programs in schools and community-based organizations. In this research review, the authors define family literacy; describe critical perspectives on family literacy programs; draw out the guiding program principles they suggest; and illustrate how these principles are implemented in three different programs.
Recognition and Response: An Early Intervening System for Young Children At-Risk for Learning Disabilities
Coleman, M.R., Buysse, V. & Neitzel, J. (2006). Recognition and Response: An early intervening system for young children at-risk for learning disabilities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute: Chapel Hill, NC.
Some young children show signs that they may not be learning in an expected manner, even before they begin kindergarten. These children may exhibit problems in areas such as language development, phonological awareness, perceptual-motor abilities, and attention, which are considered precursors of learning disabilities in older children. However, under current state and federal guidelines, these children are unlikely to meet eligibility criteria for having a learning disability. This is because formal identification of a child's learning disability generally does not occur until there is a measurable discrepancy between the child's aptitude and academic achievement, often not until the second or third grade.
This report describes a method of addressing those warning signs immediately.
Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy
Dunst, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy. CELLreviews 5(4). Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute, Center for Early Literacy Learning.
The effects of children's story retelling on early literacy and language development was examined in a meta-analysis of 11 studies including 687 toddlers and preschoolers. Results indicated that children's story retelling influenced both story-related comprehension and expressive vocabulary as well as nonstory-related receptive language and early literacy development. Findings also showed that the use of the characteristics that experts consider the important features of retelling practices was associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.
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.
Relationships Between Inferential Book Reading Strategies and Young Children's Language and Literacy Competence
Dunst, Carl, Williams, A, Trivette, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Relationships Between Inferential Book Reading Strategies and Young Children's Language and Literacy Competence. CELLreviews 5(10), 1-10.
This meta-analysis looks at how different types of inferential book reading strategies used by adults are associated with young children's language and literacy behavior and development. Results showed that parents' and teachers' use of different types of inferencing strategies were related to variations in the child outcomes, and that the effects of inferencing were conditioned on the children's ages.
Children's Schooling and Parents' Investment in Children: Evidence from the Head Start Impact Study
Gelber, A and Isen, A. 2012. Children's Schooling and Parents' Investment in Children: Evidence from the Head Start Impact Study (NBER Working Paper 17704).
Parents may have important effects on their children, but little work in economics explores whether children's schooling opportunities crowd out or encourage parents' investment in children. We analyze data from the Head Start Impact Study, which granted randomly-chosen preschool-aged children the opportunity to attend Head Start. We find that Head Start causes a substantial increase in parents' involvement with their children—such as time spent reading to children, math activities, or days spent with children by fathers who do not live with their children—both during and after the period when their children are potentially enrolled in Head Start. We discuss a variety of mechanisms that are consistent with our findings, including a simple model we present in which Head Start impacts parent involvement in part because parents perceive their involvement to be complementary with child schooling in the production of child qualities.
Head Start and the Changing Demographics of Young Children
Golden, O. (2011). Head start and the changing demographics of young children. NHSA Dialog, 14(1).
Head Start and Early Head Start programs have always understood that high-quality services are grounded in a thorough understanding of the children and families in their communities. And the portrait of our nation's children is changing rapidly. Results from the 2010 Census show a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic composition of children, particularly increases in Hispanic and Asian children and declines in white children (and a slight decline nationally in the number of black children). Other recent national surveys show a sharp increase in the proportion of children, and young children in particular, whose parents are immigrants. Based on these trends and recent Urban Institute research, this paper makes four recommendations about how local Head Start practitioners can best meet the needs of today's young children and their families.
Watching Teachers Work: Using Observation Tools to Promote Effective Teaching in the Early Years and Early Grades
Guernsey, L., and Ochshorn, S. (2011). Watching Teachers Work: Using Observation Tools to Promote Effective Teaching in the Early Years and Early Grades. Washington, DC: New America Foundation.
Identifying good teachers is a high priority in education reform, yet the debate rarely focuses on how education might improve if policies were based on teachers' individual interactions with their students. This report argues for improving early education up through the third grade (PreK-3rd) by actually watching teachers in action using innovative observation tools in combination with evaluation and training programs. The report also paints a picture of the dismal state of early education for many children — especially the disadvantaged — who are rarely given access to the kinds of stimulating, content-rich conversations that provide them with the cognitive and social-emotional skills they need to succeed throughout their years in school.
Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators
Guernsey, L., Levine, M., Chiong, C. Stevens, M. (2012). Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators. Washington DC: The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Digital apps designed to teach young children to read are an increasingly large share of the market, but parents and educators have little to no information about whether and how they work. Produced as part of a collaboration between the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the New America Foundation, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, this report scans the market of digital products and shares promising practices and programs.
Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children
Gutnick, A. L., Robb, M., Takeuchi, L., & Kotler, J. Always connected: The new digital media habits of young children. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
This report by Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center takes a fresh look at data emerging from studies undertaken by Sesame Workshop, independent scholars, foundations, and market researchers on the media habits of young children, who are often overlooked in the public discourse that focuses on tweens and teens. The report reviews seven recent studies about young children and their ownership and use of media. By focusing on very young children and analyzing multiple studies over time, the report arrives at a new, balanced portrait of children’s media habits.
Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten
Hull, Jim. Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten. 2011 The Center for Public Education: Alexandria, VA
The report looks at the effect of various combinations of pre-k and kindergarten on third grade reading skills, a key predictor of future academic success. Findings show that children who attend pre-k and half-day kindergarten are more likely to have higher reading skills by the third grade than those who attend full-day kindergarten alone. The impact was greatest for Hispanic children, black children, English Language Learners, and children from low-income families.
Income and Education as Predictors of Children's School Readiness
Isaacs, J. and Magnuson, K. (2011). Income and Education as Predictors of Children's School Readiness. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), the Brookings Institution recently published a paper that looks at how factors such as family income and maternal education are associated with children's school readiness. The authors find that both factors have a significant influence on children's ability to learn long before they enter the classroom. The paper includes a discussion of the challenges of implementing policies to increase family income and maternal education.
Improving School Readiness and Success for Children
Joyner, S. and Theodore, K. (2011). Improving School Readiness and Success for Children. Austin, TX: Southeast Comprehensive Center at SEDL.
A recent article by SEDL's Southeast Comprehensive Center reviews the significance of school readiness and factors that help young learners prepare for school. School readiness consists of three components: (1) a child's readiness for school, (2) schools' readiness to support the learning and development of every child, and (3) family and community supports and services that contribute to children's readiness. School readiness also requires high-quality preschool and readiness programs, professional development for the early childhood workforce, alignment of early learning guidelines and standards with content standards, coordinated early childhood data systems, and other efforts targeted to address the needs of young children and their families.
Children in Poverty Need Opportunities to Play
Milteer, R. and Ginsburg, K. (2011) The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty. Pediatrics, 129(1), 204-213.
In a follow-up report to its earlier statement on the importance of play for all children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) looks at specific concerns affecting children from low-income families. For approximately 15 million children living in poverty in the U.S., there are limited opportunities to play and the associated benefits those children could be receiving are also limited.
Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years
National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2011). Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years. New York, NY.
Children who attend high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are more likely to graduate from high school, says a report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) that calls on states and communities to build an aligned system to support early childhood learning and kindergarten programs. The report addresses the need for kindergarten programs to be included in national standards, noting that "the availability of kindergarten is highly variable, with unstable funding in many districts and parents paying for full-day programs." NAESP recommends 10 action steps for policy makers to improve fragmented early childhood learning.
Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel
National Center for Family Literacy. (2009). Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.
The National Early Literacy Panel looked at published research concerning children's early literacy skills and reports on which early skills or abilities could properly be said to be the precursors of later literacy achievement.
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.
Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness
Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium (2008). Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness (NCER 2008-2009). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
The Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research initiative studied the impact of the 14 preschool curricula on five student-level outcomes (reading, phonological awareness, language, mathematics, and behavior) and six classroom-level outcomes (classroom quality, teacher-child interaction, and four types of instruction).