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The New 3R's: Reading, Resilience, and Relationships in After-School Programs

Gil Noam

Maryanne Wolf, Tami Katzir


Background: The New 3 R's evaluates the efficacy of a proven, school-based reading intervention in a new afterschool context, both alone and with an innovative risk prevention program. The study poses three broad questions: first, whether early elementary school children with reading difficulties can make significant gains in reading skills, particularly fluency and comprehension, in an afterschool intervention that is exciting and fun. Second, do combined emphases on structured and supportive relationships, resiliency, and high-quality reading remediation result in both academic content and social outcomes? The third question asks which academic and social characteristics best predict which students will respond well or poorly to intensive instructional interventions in afterschool settings.

Purpose: This afterschool intervention focuses on young children who are struggling readers in urban elementary schools. The academic goals are to increase reading performance, with special emphases on vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The intervention's social goals include better motivation to read, decreased behavior problems, and increased sense of self-competence. The study explores whether the afterschool hours can produce significant results while maintaining the goals of positive relationships and enjoyment in learning.

Intervention: The study evaluates a newly developed afterschool intervention that brings together two programs that have proven successful in other settings (and with other populations) -- RAVE-O, a highly structured, research-tested, reading fluency program and RALLY for Kids, a highly supportive relationship-based preventative mental health intervention for students.

Setting: The interventions took place at a total of seven elementary schools in metropolitan Boston and metropolitan Phoenix between November 2003 and July 2005.

Research Design: This project is using an experimental (randomized, controlled) design. Subjects were second and third grade struggling readers, who were also identified with social, emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral challenges, and who were enrolled in well-established, school-based afterschool programs. Children were grouped by reading scores at each school (to facilitate teaching) and then groups were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment conditions (reading intervention only, or reading intervention plus social-emotional intervention). Children in the control participated in the afterschool program offered at their school.

Individual growth curve methodology was used to analyze changes in each outcome measure (unscaled), and the correlates of these changes, over the course of the intervention programs. Correlations between baseline affective and reading outcome measures were also reviewed. Subjects in both years were assessed at baseline, midpoint, and end-of-treatment, with the midpoint evaluation in year 2 corresponding to the same length of time as the end-of-treatment assessment in year 1.

Findings: Preliminary findings indicate that The New 3 R's intervention resulted in significantly better performance on these reading skills: word identification, as measured on the standardized Woodcock Johnson Reading Mastery Test; phonological processing skills that are key in early reading acquisition, as measured by the standardized Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing; trained words, as measured by the experimental RAVE-O Word Test; and untrained words that test generalization of knowledge learned in the program, as measured by the experimental RAVE-O Untrained Word Test.

To date, two posters have been presented at Society for the Scientific Study of Reading (SSSR) Twelfth Annual Meeting on June 24-26, 2005, in Toronto:

Examining Word Reading Efficiency Among Struggling Readers: Does Slow and Steady Win the Race? M. Pierce, T. Katzir, M. Wolf, G. Noam.
Examining the Co-morbidity of Behavioral Problems and Reading Difficulties Among Elementary School Children. A. Wechsler, M. Pierce, T. Katzir, M. Wolf, G. Noam.
One doctoral dissertation at Harvard Graduate School of Education was completed and received the Jeanne S. Chall Dissertation Award:
Urban Children at Risk for Reading Failure: Investigating Profiles and Components of Reading Performance Among Dysfluent Readers. M. Pierce.

You can learn more about this project by visiting