Examining the Effects of Home- and School-Based Early Reading Intervention During the COVID-19 Pandemic on Struggling Readers

  • Author / Creator
    Dunn, Kristy L
  • This dissertation includes two studies that examine the effects of home- and school-based reading intervention during the COVID-19 pandemic in a group of Grade 1 to 3 struggling readers. The first study examined whether different parent- and teacher-related factors had an effect on at-risk children’s reading development during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy Grade 1 English-speaking Canadian children (28 females, 42 males; Mage = 6.60, SD = 0.46) who were at-risk for reading difficulties were administered word and pseudoword reading, nonverbal IQ, and phonological awareness tasks before the school closures (February 2020; Time 1). Reading tasks were administered again when they returned to school in September 2020 (Time 2). In April-May 2020, their parents (n = 70) and teachers (n = 40) filled out a questionnaire on the home literacy environment and the frequency of teaching reading and providing reading materials, respectively. Results of multilevel regression analyses showed that children’s reading enjoyment and home learning activities predicted both word and pseudoword reading at Time 2. Differentiation of instruction for struggling readers also predicted children’s pseudoword reading at Time 2. These findings reinforced the important role of parents in their children’s early reading development particularly when the typical agents of instruction (i.e., teachers) have less time and opportunities to interact with their students because of the pandemic.
    The second study examined if we could improve struggling readers’ reading performance by delivering two theory-driven reading interventions (i.e., phonics + set for variability and phonics + morphology) and whether phonics + set for variability would lead to better results in irregular word reading than phonics + morphology. We recruited 352 Grade 2 and 3 struggling readers (166 males, 186 females; Mage = 7.67 years, SD = .68) from four school divisions in Alberta, Canada, who received intervention in small groups (2-4 children), 4 times a week, 30 minutes each lesson, for 15 weeks. Results of hierarchical linear modeling showed that there was a significant effect of intervention from pre-test to post-test and delayed post-test with large effect sizes in all reading outcomes. There was no significant difference between the two intervention conditions in irregular word reading. These findings suggest that theory-driven intervention can have a positive impact on children’s reading performance in early grades. However, about a quarter of our participants did not respond to the intervention which suggests that they would need additional and perhaps more intense intervention.
    Overall, this dissertation provides important insight into the home- and school-based reading intervention practices during COVID-19. Our findings add to those of previous studies of the pandemic that examined the home literacy environment by providing preliminary evidence that home learning activities during school closures influenced at-risk children’s reading skills. It also adds to a growing body of intervention research aimed to address learning losses due to COVID-19 by showing that explicit, systematic, and intensive instruction can improve the reading performance of struggling readers when intervention is delivered with a high level of fidelity.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.