Pointing out words, capital letters and demonstrating how you read from left to right and top to bottom could improve childrens’ spelling and language comprehension skills, according to an American study.


The research from Ohio University found that children under 5 who were taught to read like this developed more advanced reading skills a year or two later than those who weren’t.

According to the researchers this is the first study to indicate a connection between referencing during reading and literacy achievement later down the line.

“By showing them what a letter is and what a letter means, and what a word is and what a word means, we’re helping them to crack the code of language and understand how to read,” said the study leader Dr Shayne Piasta.

A previous study discovered that untrained teachers referenced just 8.5 times each reading session, while trained teachers referenced 36 times a reading session. Parents typically made only one reference in a reading session of 10 minutes. Dr Shayne said just a ‘slight tweak’ was needed in what parents were already doing to make a difference to their little one’s reading skills.

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More than 300 children took part in the 30-week reading programme as part of Project STAR (Sit Together And Read).

The children, who all came from low-income homes and had below-average language skills, were separated into three groups:

  • The first group had four reading sessions per week (called high-dose STAR). Here, teachers were trained to make specific print references.
  • The second group had two sessions (called low-dose STAR). Here again, teachers were trained to make specific print references.
  • The third (called a comparison group) had four reading sessions per week. Here, teachers were told to read as they normally would and not make specific references.

Results revealed that even up to two years later, children in the in the high-dose STAR classrooms had higher word reading, spelling and comprehension skills than the children in the comparison group. The children in the low-dose STAR classroom appeared to have slightly better skills than the comparison group kids.

“If you’re getting kids to pay attention to letters and words, it makes sense that they will do better at word recognition and spelling. But the fact that they also did better at understanding the passages they read is really exciting,” said Dr Shayne.

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