Our Research

Our research has focused on the central question: “How can coaching support teachers’ knowledge and their ability to apply it to effectively teach reading?”

A History Rooted in the Science of Reading

Literacy How’s evolution began in 1999 at Haskins Laboratories, when Haskins Senior Scientist Anne Fowler assisted in assembling Connecticut’s Early Reading Panel. This group produced “Connecticut’s Blueprint for Reading Achievement,” which identified professional development required for K-grade 3 teachers to improve reading instruction.
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Our Research Findings

What We’ve Learned about Helping Teachers

  • Developing teacher knowledge has the potential to improve children’s achievement. 
  • Yet many teachers lack research-based disciplinary knowledge about reading development, assessment, and language structure. In fact, “they don’t know what they don’t know.”
  • Teachers acquire knowledge of the science of reading when it is taught in pre-service preparation or in-service professional development. 
  • Teachers’ attitudes play an important role in increasing their knowledge as well as improving their instruction.  
  • It takes time and practice, practice, practice for teachers to consolidate the application of knowledge and effective instruction. 
  • Mentors make a difference in teachers’ ability to hone their instructional practices to raise student achievement.  

How Research Informs Our Work

By applying and conducting research in schools and classrooms, we continuously develop our expertise so that we can help educators develop theirs. Our work is informed by the science of reading—the latest brain research and other cutting-edge developments in language, learning, and literacy. Research shapes the content and pacing of our professional development, impacts the selection of evidence-based assessments and instructional practices, and influences how our mentors teach and motivate adult learners.

Connecticut Partnership for Literacy Success

The Connecticut Partnership for Literacy Success (formerly CK3LI)  (2012-present), funded by the CT State Department of Education, is working with Hill for Literacy to develop a comprehensive school-wide reading plan to build internal expertise and capacity in schools. In addition, students at risk for reading difficulties are identified and provided with small group intervention.

In our role in this partnership with Center for Behavioral Education Research  (CBER) at UConn, HILL for Literacy, the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors, and the Connecticut State Department of Education, Literacy How Mentors deliver embedded professional development to teachers in Alliance schools.  Literacy How is also on the management team and helped to create Parent Engagement curriculum used at Family Literacy Nights.

While outcome data revealed successes early on, schools that participated for three years or more showed the most dramatic improvement. Schools adopting the Model for three years or more had more than doubled the number of students meeting grade-level literacy goals, while also reducing the number of students at significant risk for reading failure by more than half.

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Early Language and Literacy Initiative (ELLI)

Literacy How and Stepping Stones Museum for Children created the Early Language and Literacy Initiative (2011-present), to infuse the latest early language and literacy research-based theory and practice into immersive, content-rich science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) learning experiences for museum, classroom and home environments. ELLI has a lab school at Stepping Stones Museum for Children and Pre-K classrooms in Norwalk and Fairfield.  

Literacy How coordinates ELLI’s research agenda which includes partners from the Ohio State University, Southern Connecticut State University, and the University of Florida. Our primary question is: What are the optimal conditions required for children to learn and grow up successfully? Central to the research agenda are research studies that occur annually. These are designed to evaluate the ELLI approach and to answer the question—does ELLI improve students’ early literacy skills and academic skill performance?

Research Findings

Over the past four years, we have administered language and literacy assessments to all ELLI students. For each cohort of students assessed, we have documented statistically significant growth, suggesting that on average, students increased their standard scores on multiple measures – growth that goes beyond what is expected for same-age peers.

The Talking Fingers Project

The Talking Fingers Project (2015-2016) was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) as part of a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Grant. NICHD-SBIR provided funding for the development of literacy apps (Talking Shapes) for pre-school and kindergarten children by Talking Fingers and Dr. Jeannine Herron. 

The research study conducted by Literacy How examined the effects of two different approaches to teach young children to read. Both approaches used apps on iPads as well as teacher-led activities in small group instruction. The group using the Talking Shapes app was significantly more prepared for kindergarten than all other students. See results.

Turning the Curve on
Ct’s Achievement Gap: K-3 Reading Assessment Pilot Study

Funded by the Grossman Family Foundation (2011-2013), this pilot study examined the efficacy of an alternative assessment to the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA2).  From 2012 to 2014, the Connecticut State Department of Education continued the funding of the Turning the Curve pilot. Year two results support the effectiveness of Literacy How Mentors.

Pre-K RTI in CT:
Building Teacher Knowledge About Language and Literacy
for Dual Language Learners

This pilot study (2010-2011) mentored teachers in the implementation of Pre-K Scientific Research-based Intervention–SRBI (CT’s framework for RTI-Response to Intervention).  It focused on what teachers need to know and be able to do to identify at-risk Pre-K students and to deliver research-based interventions focused on improving the language and pre-literacy skills of dual language learners. By using assessment data, the most skilled Pre-K teachers were able to differentiate instruction for 4-yr-olds to provide early intervention to help prevent reading failure. This study was funded by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.

There’s a “mismatch between what educators believe and know and what convergent research supports as effective reading instruction for children at risk of reading difficulties.”

— Bos et al. (2001)