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SAIL, Storybook Activities for Improving Literacy, was an intervention where Head Start teachers were trained to use storybook reading to improve the literacy skills, particularly vocabulary skills, of preschool children. All of the children were enrolled in Head Start classrooms in Lane County, Oregon, Oregon who were also participants in Project STAR a larger study conducted by the University of Oregon. The intervention included activities that targeted vocabulary, comprehension, and narrative ability. It was conducted for 20 minutes a day, approximately four days a week for eight weeks.
The trained teachers were instructed to read assigned storybooks to their classrooms for the allotted period of time. The storybooks used in the intervention were age appropriate, had numerous distinct sequence events, and varied vocabulary. Three vocabulary words were assigned per book to be introduced to the preschoolers that were related to the story and likely to be unfamiliar words. Some examples of selected words were ukulele, magician, optometrist, flashlight, crane, and restaurant. Activities were planned for all four days the book was assigned.
Introduction to the author, children had the opportunity to predict the events of the story based on the cover of the book. The teacher read the story, pausing to define assigned vocabulary words. At the conclusion of the story the teachers asked comprehension questions.
On the second day, the teacher re-introduced the author and reminded the children of the three assigned vocabulary words. The teachers showed pictures of the vocabulary words and discussed broader categories that these words could fall into (e.g, "elk" falls into the category of "animals").
Students retold the story using the pictures in the book, they were encouraged to use the three vocabulary words while retelling the story. The teacher then asked review-orientated questions focusing on the vocabulary words.
On the final day, the children acted out events of the story beginning by stating the three vocabulary words. The children were assigned to play different roles of characters in the story.
Results of the Intervention
Preschoolers who participated in the intervention improved on measures of vocabulary and narrative ability. However, there were no significant gains in comprehension or Print Awareness. This study differed from previous studies in that it took place in a large group setting, to accommodate the resources available in typical Head Start programs, and in that teachers spent four days on one storybook. The study further supported that reading aloud to children may not be a sufficient practice to increase literacy skill.
- Simon, K.K. (2003). Storybook activities for improving language: Effects on language and literacy outcomes in Head Start preschool classrooms. Doctoral Dissertation: University of Oregon, Dissertation Abstracts.