This project's long-term objective is to improve reading in America, where at present only 25% of fourth graders can read at a """"""""proficient"""""""" level and a mere 8% can be called """"""""advanced."""""""" The economic well-being, the health, and democratic functioning of the nation all depend on a literate and informed citizenry. Despite overwhelming evidence that phonologically-based instruction is essential for skilled reading, there is widespread lack of knowledge, or denial, of this evidence among instructors of teachers, and teachers. Deep letter knowledge requires that children understand that the words they say are made of different sounds, that those sounds can be represented by drawn shapes called letters, and that these letters, sequenced together, can turn the words they say into words they can see. It is vital to improve teacher development at the early grade levels by providing instruction in phonologically-based approaches to reading. Re-educating vast numbers of instructors and teachers has proved to be a very slow task. Meanwhile children suffer from inadequate instruction. This SBIR project seeks to challenge current practices with a simple, but fundamental, shift in reading instruction: (speech-to-print rather than print-to-speech), by providing a low-cost, well designed, speech-to-print curriculum for iPads, Talking Shapes, for teaching early literacy at home or at school.
Specific Aims : Talking Fingers, Inc. will develop and test three iPad stories with 15 games which will become, in Phase 2, a complete curriculum of 7 stories &35 games. The seven stories are about two sisters who invented the alphabet. Their letters are embedded in pictures that uniquely call to mind both the sound and the shape of the letter--Talking Shapes. The seven stories will cover the 40 sounds of English and the letters that represent those phonemes. Research: Research with 42 four-year-olds (to evaluate feasibility and promise) will be carried out at the Florida State University Schools, and will utilize a randomized delayed treatment control with a pre-mid-posttest design, with students randomly assigned within classrooms to Group 1 (first 6 weeks) or Group 2 (second six weeks). Questions include the following: (1) Do children in Group 1 learn more target letter/sound associations and target words (read and spell) at mid-test compared to the delayed Group 2;(2) How many letters do the G1 students maintain at post-testing;(3) do G1 and G2 students learn similar letters and words? and (4) Does vocabulary moderate the number of letter/sounds and words learned? We will examine pre to mid-test gains, mid-test to post-test and pre to posttest gains on the assessments of Letter- Sounds and Words using general linear modeling ANCOVA. This speech-to-print approach involves integrating letter knowledge, phoneme awareness and phonics into one process: sounding-out (segmenting) and constructing meaningful words. This proposed curriculum is unique and, with positive research results, could inform both teachers and parents about the process and value of systematic phonologically-based learning, could inspire further research, and could serve a pivotal role in improving reading nationwide.

Public Health Relevance

Reading failure represents a social and economic crisis in America. When two-thirds of fourth graders are unable to read proficiently (NAEP, 2010), the future of an informed citizenry and a democratic system, the health and welfare, and the economic well-being of the nation are at risk. Talking Fingers, Inc. envisions improving reading across America by providing an innovative, low-cost, phonologically-based iPad (and other devices) curriculum, Talking Shapes, for teaching children effective strategies for literacy at home or at school.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-V (10))
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Mann Koepke, Kathy M
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Talking Fingers, Inc.
San Rafael
United States
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