Effects of a Prereading Intervention on the Literacy and Social Skills of Children

By Nelson, J. Ron; Stage, Scott A. et al. | Exceptional Children, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Effects of a Prereading Intervention on the Literacy and Social Skills of Children


Nelson, J. Ron, Stage, Scott A., Epstein, Michael H., Pierce, Corey D., Exceptional Children


Children with behavioral disorders (BD) consistently show moderate to severe academic achievement deficits relative to normally achieving students (e.g., Greenbaum et al., 1996; Mattison, Spitznagel, & Felix, 1998; Meadows, Neel, Scott, & Parker, 1994; Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004; Wagner, 1995). Scruggs and Mastropieri (1986), for example, found that a sample of second-grade children with BD performed one or more standard deviations below normally achieving peers in vocabulary, listening comprehension, spelling, social studies, and science. Children with BD also appear to have more severe academic achievement deficits than those with learning disabilities (Epstein & Cullinan, 1983; Gajar, 1979; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1986; Wagner, 1995; Wilson, Cone, Bradley, & Reese, 1986). Furthermore, the results from a longitudinal study suggest that BD may have a more adverse impact on academic achievement over time than do learning disabilities. Anderson, Kutash, & Duchnowski (2001) reported that children with BD failed to show improvements in their literacy skills from the first to fifth grades, whereas children with learning disabilities showed statistically significant improvements.

Two reviews of the literature on learner characteristics that influence the treatment effectiveness of early literacy interventions provide converging evidence to support the notion that BD has an adverse impact on academic achievement (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002; Nelson, Benner, & Gonzalez, 2003). A meta-analytic review (Nelson et al., 2003) indicated that the primary learner characteristics that predict treatment effectiveness of literacy interventions were rapid automatic naming ([Z.sub.r] = .51), problem behavior ([Z.sub.r] = .46), phonological awareness ([Z.sub.r] = .42), word reading ([Z.sub.r] = .35), memory ([Z.sub.r] = .31), IQ ([Z.sub.r] = .26) and demographics ([Z.sub.r] = .07). Furthermore, the negative influence of problem behavior on the treatment effectiveness of literacy interventions was statistically equivalent to rapid automatic naming, phonological, and word reading deficits.

More directly relevant to the current study is research investigating the collateral effects of literacy interventions on the beginning reading skills and social behavior of children with (Falk & Wehby, 2001) or at risk for BD (Lane, 1999; Lane, O'Shaughnessy, Lambros, Gresham, & Beebe-Frankenberger, 2001; Lane, et al., 2002). Researchers also have studied the potential collateral effects of literacy interventions on children's social behavior. Such interventions are more likely both to improve a child's repertoire of prosocial skills (e.g., communication skills) essential for classroom functioning and to increase opportunities for positive reinforcement from teachers and peers than other achievement areas such as mathematics (McEvoy & Welker, 2000).

The results of research exploring the collateral effects of literacy interventions on the social behavior of children with or at risk for BD are mixed. Lane (1999) investigated the relative effects of literacy and social skills interventions on the beginning reading and social behavior of 53 first-grade children at risk for BD. Six classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: reading (i.e., Phonological Awareness Training for Reading, Torgesen & Bryant, 1994), social skills (i.e., Social Skills Intervention Guide: Practical Strategies for Social Skills Training, Elliott & Gresham, 1991), or control. Although children receiving the literacy intervention showed statistically significant improvement in their phonological awareness skills compared to children in the social skills and control conditions, they did not show improvement on a measure of word attack skills. Children, regardless of condition, showed no improvements in their social behavior. In contrast, Lane et al. (2002) used a single-case design to assess the effects of a supplementary literacy program (John Shefelbine's Phonics Chapter Books; Shefelbine, 1998) on the beginning reading skills and social behavior of seven children at risk for BD and reading difficulties. …

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