Sustaining a Content Literacy Program Across School Years Improves Reading Comprehension

January 1, 2022

Kim, J. S., Burkhauser, M. A., Relyea, J. E., Gilbert, J. B., Scherer, E., Fitzgerald, J., Mosher, D., & McIntyre, J. (2022). A longitudinal randomized trial of a sustained content literacy intervention from first to second grade: Transfer effects on students’ reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.


We developed a sustained content literacy intervention that emphasized building domain and topic knowledge from Grade 1 to Grade 2 and evaluated transfer effects on students’ reading comprehension outcomes. The Model of Reading Engagement (MORE) intervention emphasizes thematic lessons that provide an intellectual framework for helping students connect new learning to a general schema (i.e., how scientists study past events). A total of 30 elementary schools (N = 2,952 students; N = 144 teachers) were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Over 12 months, the treatment group students participated in (a) spring Grade 1 thematic content literacy lessons in science and social studies followed by wide reading of thematically related informational texts during summer, and (b) fall to spring Grade 2 thematic content literacy lessons in science. After implementation of Grade 1 thematic content literacy lessons and summer support for reading, treatment group students experienced smaller summer losses on a domain-general measure of reading than control group students. Following the sustained implementation of thematic content literacy lessons in science through Grade 2, treatment group students also outperformed their control group peers on a science content reading comprehension outcome (ES = .18). Furthermore, we found transfer effects on science content reading comprehension that varied by passage-item type (near-, mid-, and far-transfer passages determined by the inclusion and number of directly taught words in passages). A sustained content literacy intervention that aligns content and instruction across grades can help students transfer knowledge to novel reading comprehension tasks. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

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