URI awarded $500,000 federal grant to promote language and literacy skills in preschoolers

URI awarded $500,000 federal grant to promote language and literacy skills in preschoolers KINGSTON, R.I. — June 8, 1999 — An innovative effort to prevent literacy problems from developing will get under way this summer for some South County preschoolers, thanks to a $501,453 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the University of Rhode Island. The three-year program, known as Project CALL, will start on July 1 and will involve about 108 children from six culturally and linguistically-diverse Head Start classrooms in three southern Rhode Island locations. The effort will begin in Westerly and then extend in years two and three to Narragansett and North Kingstown. Both regular and special-needs preschoolers will participate. The project is headed by URI Assistant Professor of Communicative Disorders Dana Kovarsky and Professor of Communicative Disorders Barbara Culatta. They will not only look at the children’s individual progress during the program, but also track the children as they enter kindergarten and first grade, to determine whether the program is effective and should be used elsewhere. “Reading and literacy rates in the United States are alarming,” said Kovarsky. “A recent national survey found that approximately 40 percent of fourth graders were not reading at their own grade level.” Project CALL aims to improve reading and literacy rates by working with children before they even enter school. “The program is designed to motivate children to want to learn to read and write,” said Culatta. “It also provides support as they make the transition to reading and literacy.” Project CALL (which stands for a Contextualized Approach to Language and Literacy) is a three-part program of structured play activities that involve reading,speaking, and the re-enactment of stories. “There are four components to literacy: reading, listening, speaking and writing,” explained Culatta. “Project CALL ties the four components together.” The children will get a taste of the joys of reading and writing by telling stories and acting out real-life situations like going to the grocery store. For instance, children would listen to a story about grocery shopping; they would talk about what to buy and make lists; and they would take on roles to enact an actual shopping trip. “Acting out the stories increases the children’s understanding of why literacy is so important,” says Culatta. For more information: Ann MacDonald, 874-2116