Results of an early literacy intervention to improve reading outcomes

Results of an early literacy intervention to improve reading outcomes
Evidence for Learning in Australia has published an evaluation report of a randomized controlled trial of MiniLit, a small group, phonics-based program for struggling Year 1 readers. The intervention is targeted to the bottom 25% of students struggling to read, and focuses on improving students' literacy in five areas: phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The program involved struggling readers from Year 1 classes in nine Australian primary schools located in New South Wales, and consisted of 80 one-hour lessons delivered four to five days per week over 20 weeks. The lessons were delivered in school outside of regular lessons by teachers to small groups of up to four students. A total of 237 students participated, of which 119 were allocated to the MiniLit intervention group and 118 to the control group. Students in the control group received the school's usual learning support for struggling readers, which could include whole-class approaches and/or support programs for struggling readers.

Overall, there was no evidence that MiniLit had any additional impact on students' reading at 12 months, measured using the York Assessment of Reading Comprehension - Passage Reading (YARC-PR) tests compared to students receiving usual reading support (ES = -0.04). However, there were some positive effects for reading accuracy (ES = +0.13) and reading rate (ES = +0.06). There was also evidence of improvement in foundational reading skills at six months, particularly letter sound knowledge, which was also sustained at 12 months.

The researchers point out, however, that the findings were dependent on the quality of the MiniLit lessons which were provided to students. Schools were limited to 20 weeks' duration, and in many cases, teachers reported that this length was not sufficient to complete the program for all groups. They suggest that improving how MiniLit is implemented may lead to more positive outcomes; however, this requires further evaluation to determine.

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