The impact of social-emotional learning instruction on preschool children's literacy outcomes

The impact of social-emotional learning instruction on preschool children's literacy outcomes

First Author: Belinda Hernandez -- University of California, Irvine
Keywords: Word knowledge, Letter identification, Social-emotional intervention, Classroom Observation, Early Literacy Skills
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose. The quality of children's experiences within preschool programs can influence their development of academic, language, and literacy competencies that help prepare them to enter elementary school (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; 1986). Previous studies have shown that high-quality social environments predict preschool children's academic and literacy skills (Mashburn, 2008). However, whether minutes spent in social-emotional learning (SEL) instruction predicts literacy outcomes necessitates further investigation. This study aimed to examine whether SEL instruction predicted preschool children’s word knowledge and letter and word reading skills.

Method. An ethnically-diverse sample of 178 children were assessed and observed at three different time points: Fall, Winter, and Spring of 2018-2019. SEL instruction was observed throughout the year using the Optimizing Learning Opportunities for Students observation system. Children’s literacy outcomes were measured using an online researcher-developed tool: Word Match Game was used to assess word knowledge and Letters-2-Meaning was used to assess letter and word reading skills.

Results. Preliminary analysis indicated that after controlling for students’ literacy scores at the beginning of the year and the amount of literacy instruction they received, children who spent more time in SEL instruction generally had higher word knowledge and letter and word reading skills at the end of the year.

Discussion. SEL instruction predicted preschool children’s literacy outcomes. These results demonstrate the importance of receiving SEL instruction in preschool classrooms to enhance children’s literacy outcomes and, ultimately, their school readiness. The amount of time that children spend in SEL instruction should be considered when designing interventions that promote school readiness for children.