District: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Center for Literacy and Disability Studies • Location: Eastern United States
Leaders: Penny Hatch, Ph.D. – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Center for Literacy and Disability Studies
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This study examines whether students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities could improve their emergent reading skills when given daily access to age- and ability-appropriate books.
This study, ‘The Effects of Daily Reading Opportunities and Teacher Experience on Adolescents with Moderate to Severe Intellectual Disability,’ conducted by Dr. Penelope Hatch grew out of a concern about what would happen after the Project Converge study ended and the students had no more age- and ability-appropriate books to read.
Dr. Hatch was interested in discovering how students’ early reading skills might be affected by daily opportunities to read a wide variety of age- and ability-appropriate books. She was also interested in how the lessons used in Project Converge might influence teachers in their future literacy instruction. She also knew that texts designed for adolescents with intellectual disabilities are difficult to find because:
• The reading ability of adolescents with intellectual disabilities is often below what is expected for their chronological ages.
• Books written for beginning readers are typically not topics of interest to teens.
• Books about topics of interest to adolescents are often too difficult to read.
• Even when teachers customize reading materials, there are often only a limited number of topics to match with student interests.
Students, ages 12 to 21, participated in the study, and the students came from diverse ethnicities and exceptionalities. Student participants included 34 males and 9 females of which:
• 40% were diagnosed with autism
• 30% moderate intellectual disabilities
• 7% severe intellectual disabilities
• 23% multiple disabilities
•26 qualified for free or reduced lunch
• 53% were unable to use speech to meet face-to-face communication
• 7% Hispanic
• 33% African American
• 53% Caucasian
• 5% Asian
• 2% Multi-Racial
Group 1 students were given Start-to-Finish Literacy Starters books for 30 minutes each day to use during self-selected reading, teacher-led instruction, or a combination of both. These teachers did not have experience using the comprehensive literacy instructional approach from Dr. Erickson’s Project Converge research study.
Results of the Intervention Program
Teachers unfamiliar with comprehensive literacy instruction
Teachers familiar with comprehensive literacy instruction
A one-tailed independent samples t-test compared group membership as the independent variable and gains scores as the dependent variable. On the post-test, Group 1 made a mean or average gain of 1.71 points, and the scores had a standard deviation of 3.99. Group 2 had a mean or average gain of 3.31 points with a standard deviation of 5.16. The high standard deviations for both groups are reflective of the heterogeneous nature of the students. The results of the t-test, t(41) = -1.017, were not significant as indicated by the p-value of .158. To have been significant, the p-value would have needed to be .05 or less.
Additional observations include:
Some possible reasons for this difference include:
• Teachers and students benefit from and need access to quality age/ability reading materials.
• Teachers and administrators need to be aware of the value of comprehensive literacy instruction for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities.
• Teachers need training in how to deliver comprehensive literacy instruction.
Additional Research on Wide Independent Reading
• Improved orthographic processing/word recognition (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990)
• Increased spelling skills (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990)
• Greater fluency, prosodic reading, and correct words read per minute (Kuhn, 2005)
What language skills are correlated with wide independent reading?
• Increased knowledge of syntactically complex sentences (Chomsky, 1972)
• Increased vocabulary (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990)
• Improved listening comprehension (Hedrick & Cunningham, 2002)