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SOAR 2018 Gabriella Nasta ’19

Gabriella Nasta ’19

“Responsive Shared Book Reading and Early Literacy Skills in Four Year Olds: A Summer Reading Experience”

Major: Psychology and Early Childhood Education Certification
Hometown: Green Brook, NJ
Project Advisor: Dr. Jean DesJardin

Describe your project.

Under the direction of Dr. DesJardin, I had the opportunity to research the effects of implementing a variety of parent and teacher strategies during shared book readings that may impact children’s language and literacy skills. First, I read past and current literature in order to understand the theory and research behind shared book reading. I coded a variety of parent-child shared book reading videos from a longitudinal study to acquire a further understanding of which parent and teacher strategies are most beneficial for supporting children’s language and literacy skills.

I had the privilege of implementing my research and specific strategies at the Moravian Summer Reading Experience Program under the direction of Mrs. Colleen Donegan. During the five weeks of the program, I was able to work with four year olds in small literacy groups. The information I gained from previous research and coding videos allowed me to supplement their skills through shared book reading and one-on-one interactions. We focused on developing their language skills by practicing alphabet letters, implementing phonological awareness activities, and conducting intentional and purposeful read-alouds with the children.

How did your project come about?

This year for Heritage Day, my class and I went to a Community Service for Children (CSC) location. After spending the day there and seeing all that they were doing for children in the Bethlehem area, I was inspired to get involved with the youth in the area. I approached Dr. DesJardin and asked if she knew of any ways in which I could get involved during the summer. This is when she suggested the option of SOAR and aiding in research that will be beneficial to programs like CSC in the future. I was extremely interested in the idea of investigating teaching strategies for shared book readings with four year olds and excitedly accepted her offer to conduct research and work with at-risk students to develop literacy skills.

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What was the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights did she bring to your project?

The best part about working with Dr. DesJardin has to be the incredible insight and experience she has shared with me during this research process. Not only has Dr. DesJardin completed extensive research in this field, she also has years of experience teaching. She was able to guide me in the process of coding. She also provided me with more resources than I knew were available, allowing me to create the best programs for my students as possible. Being able to meet with her and pick her brain about all things teaching related has really helped me to grow in my own thoughts and practices of teaching.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

The biggest obstacle so far has been time. The children are only in the reading experience on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays for half of the day (9:00 a.m. to noon). During the limited three hours, the students are given breakfast and lunch and each day is started with a group meeting and lesson. Although these three things are very important and vital to having a great day in the summer program, they do, however, take time, and as a result the time I had to spend with each child individually always felt too short. That said, it would have been wonderful to be able to spend more time one-on-one with the students.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience was the amazing opportunity to work with students of all abilities and backgrounds. I was able to see first hand how the implementation of teaching strategies during shared book reading sessions can help directly improve children’s language and early literacy skills. These skills are critical for young pre-k children as they enter kindergarten and are expected to be “school ready” by the first day of school.

What was the result of your project?

Overall, the results of this project show that many students can benefit from the use of teaching strategies during shared book readings. Four and five year olds are at a critical age to develop these skills before entering kindergarten. Having heightened language and literacy skills helps them be prepared for all that kindergarten expects from them and gives them a great foundation to learn from in years to come. We are still analyzing our data, but preliminary results show that there are positive relationships between specific teaching strategies during shared book reading and children’s expressive language skills. Those same strategies could be taught to parents of young children who may be at risk for reading development.

Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?

Being awarded this opportunity is a great privilege. It is an amazing experience to be able to conduct research on your own, and have such a supportive group of students and faculty to interact with as well. SOAR allows you to create a personal relationship and partnership with a faculty member in your area of interest. The insight and guidance they provide you over the course of your research is something for which I will be forever grateful. There are also numerous social events that help you connect with other participants in the SOAR program that really are fun.

Do you plan to expand upon your research?

I plan to continue to work with Dr. DesJardin in the fall to expand our research. I hope to run further statistical analysis and see how our research can be applicable to programs like United Way and CSC.

Will you present this research outside the SOAR presentations?

Dr. DesJardin and I will be attending a conference in late October where we will be presenting this research. The Division for Early Childhood (DEC) is having its 34th annual international conference on young children with special needs and their families. We will be presenting our poster as well as attending various information sessions. I will also be sharing this research with Dr. DesJardin’s early childhood education class in the fall.