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Preventing early reading failure : an examination of the implementation of a phonological awareness program for young children Smith, Veronica

Abstract

This study examined the effectiveness of an early reading program, Firm Foundations, implemented in 13 kindergarten classrooms as part of a school district wide literacy initiative in 10 schools in a northern community in western Canada. Phonological awareness, spelling, and reading skills of each child (N = 151) in the participating classrooms were measured prior to and after implementation of the program. The level of implementation of the program, the school and child factors that influenced implementation, and the relation between implementation and child outcomes were examined. All teachers completed background and belief questionnaires, and principals in the participating schools were interviewed to determine their level of support for the program in their respective schools. Multilevel modeling techniques that accounted for the nested structure of the data showed that children who were taught more components of the Firm Foundations program were at less risk for reading failure on many of the outcome measures. Factors that were associated with higher levels of implementation of the program were principal support, teacher background and belief in the program, and a smaller number of children identified as at risk for reading failure in each classroom. The results support the use of early literacy programming, which includes phonological awareness and letter-sound mastery, for children at risk for reading failure. These findings are discussed in regard to the importance of conducting theory-based program evaluation of routine practice in classrooms and the importance of understanding the processes underlying successful program dissemination of classroom-based interventions.

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