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Improving Children's Reading by a Small Change

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report. Teachers and parents usually call attention to the pictures when they read storybooks to preschool children. But a study published in 2011 suggests that calling attention to the words and letters on the page may help a child's reading.

The two-year study compared children who were read to this way in class with children who were not. The children whose teachers most often discussed the print showed clearly higher skills in reading, spelling and understanding. These results were found one year and even two years later.

Shayne Piasta at Ohio State University was an author of the study. She said most preschool teachers would find this method manageable and would need only a small change in the way they teach. They already read storybooks in class. The only difference would be increased attention to the printed text. If you get children to pay attention to letters and words, it makes sense they would do better at word recognition and spelling. But research suggests that very few parents and teachers do this in a systematic way.

The report appeared in the journal Child Development.More than 300 children ages four and five were observed for the study. The children came from poor families and were below average in their language skills. There are different ways that adults can talk to children about print. They can point to a letter and discuss it, and even trace the shape with a finger. They can point out a word. They can discuss the meaning of the print or how the words tell the story. And they can talk about the organization of the print -- for instance, showing how words are written left to right in English.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 07Mar2013)