CSEDU, Virtual event
23-25 April 2021
Link: http://www.csedu.org/?y=2021

Poster + Presentation: Simo-syl”: A computer-based programme to enhance child’s emergent literacy skills.
Bastianello, T., Persici, V., Ferrari, R., Bertelli, B., & Majorano, M.

Introduction. Reading acquisition requires the integration of several skills from different cognitive domains. Many studies have shown that early literacy skills could be enhanced during preschool adopting specific supporting programme (Goldstein et al., 2017; Walker & Carta, 2020) focused on phonological and meta-phonological skills (Dickinson et al. 2010). For example, some studies have reported that a meta-phonological intervention based on the syllabic approach to early literacy could support preschool and school-age children in the automatisation of reading skills improving speed and accuracy (Bertelli et al. 2013; Padovani et al. 2018) especially for children with learning fragilities. Furthermore, computer-based or multimedia intervention programmes in preschool and primary school is useful not only to maximally engage children in the learning process, but also to support teacher’s work on children’s literacy skills (Chambers et al., 2006).

Aims. The objective of the present study is to explore the efficacy of “Simo-syl”, a 12 weeks multimedia programme for enhancing Italian preschool children’s emergent literacy based on the syllabic approach. “Simo-syl” consists on a series of meta-phonological games in which children are led by an invented character, “Simo”. We expected that children in the Simo-syl programme will reach higher meta-phonological skills as measured through an ad hoc built computer-based assessment tool when compared to the other children (control group).

Method. Sixty-three Italian pre-schoolers aged between 4;10 and 5;9 years were randomly splitted into two groups: the Simo-syl group (N = 46) and the control group (N= 17). Children’s were assessed at the beginning of the last year of the preschool in their lexical, morpho-syntactical, meta-phonological, phonological and phono-articulatory skills with the use of standardised paper-based assessment tools. Furthermore, an unstandardised computer-based assessment tool was also created for testing children’s ability to recognise syllable and vowel and to read syllables and words). All children in the Simo-syl group took part in the meta-phonological programme based on the syllabic approach. The intervention lasted 12 weeks (three activities per week; week 1: activities focused on syllable blending and spelling and a first approach to the written code; weeks 2-11: activities focused on syllables recognition; week 12: activities focused on vowels recognition). Very few children (Simo-syl group = 21, control group = 9) were tested again (Post-test) through video-calls with the help of families by using the same computer-based assessment tool used before taking part in the intervention.

Results. Preliminary analysis on the children’s scores in the early assessment before the intervention showed that children in the Simo-syl and in the control group displayed similar scores (all ps >.05); when the two groups are compared after the Simo-syl programme they were find to differ in the vowel recognition and in the word reading tasks (ps < .05). To test the efficacy of Simo-syl on the children’s meta-phonological skills, four 2X2 repeated measures analyses of the variance (Anovas) were conducted using time (before and after intervention) as within-subject factor and group (Simo-syl and control groups) as between subject factor. An interaction effect between time and group for the word reading task (F(1,28) = 6.83, p = .014, ηp2= .196) emerged. Post-hoc tests with Bonferroni correction revealed that the Simo-syl group shown a significant improvement in word reading after the intervention (t (28) = -6.811, pbonf <.001).

Discussion and Conclusion. The Simo-syl intervention based on the syllabic approach enhances the children’s phonological and meta-phonological skills. Further studies will need to confirm the result, with a larger number of participants.