An intervention approach emphasizing parental engagement and family-school partnerships improves preschool children’s early language and literacy skills, according to a newly published study from the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools.
The four-year study, co-authored by CYFS Director Susan Sheridan and four colleagues, found that an approach called Getting Ready improved the language, pre-reading and early writing skills of disadvantaged children enrolled in the Head Start preschool program. The study was published in the June edition of the Journal of School Psychology.
Getting Ready, which Sheridan and the study’s co-authors unveiled in 2004, aims to help early childhood teachers provide parents with the skills to responsively engage their children and prepare them for school.
After receiving training in Getting Ready strategies and family-centered practices, the study’s preschool teachers conducted home visits to engage parents and children over a two-year span. During these visits, teachers attempted to enhance children’s development by establishing positive parent-child interactions, sharing observations, discussing goals, offering suggestions, creating home-school plans, and focusing on families’ and children’s strengths.
The researchers measured the impact of these efforts via reports of child outcomes from 29 Head Start teachers and assessments of 217 children aged 3 to 5. The observed language and literacy improvements were magnified among children with developmental concerns and learning disabilities, along with non-native English speakers. The intervention was even more effective for children living with multiple adults but was less impactful when those adults had health problems or limited education.
“The teachers’ use of Getting Ready strategies with families is particularly salient for the most at-risk children in our sample, whom past research has shown will struggle upon school entry,” said co-author and CYFS Research Associate Professor Lisa Knoche. “By enhancing already high-quality early intervention services for this most at-risk group of children, we are improving the likelihood of their success upon transition into kindergarten and throughout their educational career.”
The new study is the latest in a line of several that have indicated the effectiveness of the approach. Previous studies demonstrated Getting Ready’s positive impacts on children’s social-emotional development and teachers’ practices and beliefs. According to the researchers, Getting Ready differs from other interventions by providing a model for individualized support rather than a program with fixed protocols and curricula.
“The Getting Ready strategies can be applied with virtually any home-visiting curricula,” Knoche said. “Getting Ready is an approach or process to working with families that supports the parent-child interaction and the parent-teacher partnership. The fact that it is not at ‘add-on’ but rather an enhancement of service delivery is a strength of the model and makes it very transportable to a variety of early childhood settings.”
CYFS researchers Sheridan, Knoche, Kevin Kupzyk, Carolyn Pope Edwards and Christine Marvin authored the newest study. Sheridan, Edwards, Marvin and Knoche developed the Getting Ready approach.
Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Administration for Children and Families, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.