Explicit Print Referencing in Speech Therapy: What exactly is it and why is it beneficial for students? Explicit Print Referencing is an evidence based practice revolving around reading and emergent literacy skills. Speech-language pathol- ogists can serve an important role in supporting preschool educators as they use this evidence-based technique with students in their classrooms. Explicit Text Referencing (2009. Justice et al)
How exactly did explicit print referencing come about? Current assessments of educational achievement among elementary school children in America are discouraging, with more than one third of fourth graders failing to exhibit basic levels of reading skills and one tenth failing to exhibit basic levels of writing skills (National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP], 2005).
The biggest concern is the very large representation of children who are poor among those who fail to exhibit proficient reading and writing abilities. The national data shows that more than half of the children who qualify for free or reduced lunch within our nation’s schools do NOT read proficiently in fourth grade (NAEP, 2005) [Explicit Text Referencing (2009. Justice et al)]
Researchers and policymakers recognized that no single solution will solve this issue as all of the parts of literacy are very multidimensional. However, there is a consensus that a preventive measure does offer some promise for reducing this number of non-readers.
Because of this, there was a change in state preschool content standards; Now early literacy objectives are heavily emphasized in preschool (Schickedanz, 2004). For example, the federal Head Start program (which funds preschool programs across the nation to serve children who are economically disadvantaged) specifies 22 explicit early literacy objectives for Head Start participants to achieve by graduation. (Office of Head Start, 2002)
Therefore, preschool teachers need to use methods that actually work with students to teach them early literacy skills. There are many methods to guide instruction for phonological awareness out there but there are far less evidence based practices for guiding instruction in print knowledge.
Enter: Explicit Print Referencing.
To address these new standards effectively, preschool teachers and other professionals who work with young children in classroom-based interventions, including speech-language pathologists, require access to techniques that have been shown temporarily to have a lot of value to children.
Print knowledge is strongly influenced by the environments in which children are raised and is an aspect of development that can be readily modified with changes to the environment. Explicit Text Referencing (2009. Justice et al)
Generally, research findings show that it is not simply the frequency with which children engage with print—during writing, reading, and other activities, such as play—that matters most to their development of print knowledge, but the quality of these interactions (Roberts, Jurgens, & Burchinal, 2005; Skibbe et al., 2008).
Due to socioeconomic challenges, children who are raised in low income homes may have relatively fewer experiences with print compared to other children (Roberts et al., 2005).
This offers at least a partial explanation as to why children who are raised in poverty tend to develop print knowledge much more slowly as compared to children who are raised in more advantaged homes (Justice, Bowles, & Skibbe, 2006).
WHAT IS EXPLICIT PRINT REFERENCING?
Print referencing is an evidence-based practice that may be used by speech-language pathologists and other early childhood specialists to enhance the emergent literacy skills of young children. Print referencing is a strategy implemented within the context of adult-child shared storybook reading interactions, and specifically refers to the use of verbal and nonverbal cues to encourage children’s attention to and interactions with print. Print referencing is pretty simple really; it’s just teachers, SLPs and parents pointing out and referring to elements of print while reading a story.
In the case study, Explicit Text Referencing in Preschoolers, the effectiveness of teachers using a print referencing style was examined (Justice & Ezell, 2000, 2002) when reading storybooks as a possible technique for helping with the development of print knowledge for children who are experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage.
Print referencing means that when reading, teachers should use verbal and nonverbal techniques to heighten children’s attention to, and interest in print within the storybook. These simple techniques include things such as:
- asking questions about print (e.g., “Do you see the letter S on this page?”)
- commenting about print (e.g., “That word says ‘Splash!’”)
- tracking one’s finger along the text while reading
The print referencing technique is based on the premise that if children show greater attention to and interest in print within storybook reading interactions, then they will learn about print more quickly (Justice & Ezell, 2004).
Reading with a print referencing style is therefore an approach that teachers, therapists, and parents may use to increase young children’s attention toward, interest in, and developing knowledge about print.
The intervention was designed specifically to help children who are learning about print more slowly than others due to infrequent experiences with print and/or developmental disabilities that make literacy learning more difficult (Justice & Ezell, 2004; Justice & Pullen, 2003).
The first study of the effects of print referencing involved children with communication disorders and their parents (Ezell, Justice, & Parsons, 2000).
WHY IS EXPLICIT PRINT REFERENCING BENEFICIAL?
Children whose teachers used a print referencing style showed larger gains on three standardized measures of print knowledge:
- print concept knowledge
- alphabet knowledge
- name writing, with medium-sized effects
Findings from the study showed that preschoolers’ participation in print-focused reading sessions for an academic year resulted in educationally significant gains in children’s print concept knowledge, alphabet knowledge, and name-writing ability as compared to preschoolers experiencing reading sessions in which teachers used their typical reading style.
In interpreting these findings, it is important to recognize that the effects for print referencing were seen over and above effects that can be attributed to “business as usual” storybook reading sessions featuring the same intensity of reading schedule and using the same storybook titles.
We can presume that children who have little knowledge about print may have difficulty with the rigors of formal reading instruction and by consequence will be “left behind.”
Use of a print referencing style can foster children’s early literacy growth, as shown in several prior studies (e.g., Justice & Ezell, 2002).
Always remember that Picture Books are for Big Kids, too! Exposing students to picture books even in the upper elementary grade levels has many benefits that I laid out in the above blog post. Here is a Big List of Picture Books for Older Students if you need it.
When print referencing is delivered within the children’s zone of proximal development, clinicians can foster children’s movement from dependent to independent mastery of key emergent literacy concepts.
EXPLICIT PRINT REFERENCING EXAMPLES
When using explicit print referencing as an SLP, there are many things that you can do to help your students with their print awareness:
-Use explicit text referencing to include a student’s IEP goals during the read aloud.
-Read with emphasis and model correct rereading skills.
-Point to the pictures and draw student’s attention to them.
-Ask open-ended questions.
When using print referencing with students, teachers may do or ask the following while reading a picture book:
•Show me the cover.
•How many words can you find?
•Drag finger along print.
•I found the /s/. That’s the word “splash.”
SLPs can serve as knowledgeable facilitators to preschool educators by fostering their understanding of the development of print knowledge in young children and supporting them as they learn to systematically integrate print-focused interactions into their large-group reading sessions.
SLPs can help translate recent research findings showing that print referencing intervention comprises an efficient and effective technique for stimulating the early foundations of reading for young children who are at risk, and for potentially mitigating their risks for later reading difficulties.
Additionally, SLPs can work with teachers to identify storybooks within their classroom collections or within school libraries that can promote use of a print referencing style. [Explicit Text Referencing (2009. Justice et al)]
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