First Grade Literacy Intervention Improves Reading Through Science-Embedded Approach

July 2, 2019

Laura Mesite, Mary Burkhauser, Catherine Armstrong, and James S. Kim present First Grade Literacy Intervention Improves Reading through Science-Embedded Approach at the 2019 Society for the Scientific Study of Reading (SSSR) Conference in Toronto, Ontario in July 2019


Purpose: We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of a first-grade science-embedded literacy intervention at scale. This two-week-long Model of Reading Engagement (MORE) intervention aimed to improve students’ reading comprehension through the use of conceptually-related science books; science concept mapping; and argumentative writing instruction grounded in science content. This study seeks to validate the logic model underpinning the MORE intervention.

Method: Structural equation modeling (SEM) was conducted in Mplus (version 7). Students receiving MORE (n=450) and typical (n=224) instruction completed researcher-developed measures of science concept knowledge, science passage comprehension, and argumentative writing shortly after the intervention period, and end-of-year Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) reading comprehension scores were obtained. All models controlled for pre-intervention MAP scores, attendance, gender, language status, special education status, race, and school poverty; and standard errors were adjusted to account for the nesting of students within schools.

Results: Our final model indicated adequate fit (RMSEA=0.015, CFI=0.945, TLI=0.933). Interpretation of direct paths illustrated that the MORE intervention increased students’ science content knowledge (b=0.148, p=0.009), science passage comprehension (b=0.452, p=0.001), and argumentative writing (b=0.135, p=0.011). Although we found no direct effect of MORE on MAP reading scores, we found significant indirect paths from MORE to MAP reading scores via science passage comprehension (b=2.763, p=0.009), writing (b=0.441, p=0.005), and both science concept knowledge and writing (b=0.153, p=0.006).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that content area literacy interventions, such as MORE, that focus on building students’ background knowledge can improve first grade students’ performance on both near and far transfer literacy tasks.