Various studies have shown the importance of phonological structure of words, often referred to as phonological awareness. According to Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998), phonological awareness is the ability to attend explicitly to the phonological structure of spoken words, rather than just to their meanings and syntactic roles. Children who exhibit low phonological awareness are at even further risk for developing difficulties while reading (McDowell et al. ). These researchers explored the correlation and variables related to phonological awareness and the impact of poverty on emergent literacy acquisition.
The age and gender of children were additional factors considered in this study. Their research concluded that poverty was the ultimate predictor of reading achievement, showing percentages of various 4th graders who fell below the poverty line scoring only 34. 6% on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (McDowell, Lonigan, & Goldstein, 2007). According to Song, Spier, & Tamis-Lemonda (2014), understanding the nature of the mother and child association and the effect of the environment on child development in the early years is critically important for children living in poverty.
Children who are raised in lower income homes develop lexicons at a slower rate than children living in higher income homes. They often show delays in cognitive development that place them at severe risk for typical academic development. Does SES (poverty and maternal education level) predict phonological awareness skills in children ages three to five? This comparison could be measured by completing a strategic language test.
The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals- Fifth Edition (CELF-5) would be administered and ompared to children of different ages (three to five) and different SES background levels (low-SES to high-SES). A simple questionnaire would be given out to their mothers, questioning their education level. After completing the CELF-5 and comparing results from the participants and their mother’s educational level, I hypothesize that children born into low-SES environments and to mothers who have minimal education levels will not exhibit age appropriate phonological awareness skills.
Methods The continuous, independent variable will be SES status, specifically poverty and maternal education, and the dependent variable will be phonological awareness skills in children ages three to five. Upon IRB approval, a between-groups withinsubjects test design will be administered and compared between preschool participants ages three to five from high-SES affluent counties in Alabama and low-SES rural counties in Alabama.
A comparing groups non-parametric alternative Chisquare statistical analysis will be used to measure the test scores between high-SES preschool students with mothers who have higher education levels and low-SES preschool students with mothers who have minimal education levels. Participants A total of 600 children between the ages of three to five will be recruited from 10 preschool centers in various counties of Alabama. Five of the preschool centers are located in affluent counties of Alabama, and the other five preschool centers are located in rural counties of Alabama.
Each preschool center will provide 60 students for testing. Children from the preschools in the affluent counties are considered to be a part of high-SES environments, with mothers who at least have a college education or higher. Children from the preschools in the rural counties are considered to be a part of low-SES environments, with mothers who have minimal education, such as high-school diplomas or less. SES status is ultimately determined by the funding source for the preschool the child attends.
Children attending private-pay centers are considered to be a part of the five preschool centers located in affluent counties, and children attending federally funded centers are considered to be a part of the five preschool centers located in rural counties. Of the 60 students from each preschool center from affluent or rural counties, 30 are females and 30 are males. The children are not identified as currently having speech, language, or special education services.
This will be determined by meeting with each preschool center’s administrator to discuss each child’s academic curriculum prior to testing. Measures A closed format questionnaire will be given to each mother to determine her exact education level and income. Questions to be included on the questionnaire can be found in Appendix A. The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Fifth Edition (CELF-5), an individually administered instrument used for identifying, diagnosing, and tracking language skill deficits, will be administered to each preschool participant.
The CELF-5 is designed to identify problematic areas in the basic foundations of mature language use: word meanings (semantics), word and sentence structure (morphology and syntax), and the recall and retrieval of spoken language (memory). The test is composed of nine-core subtests, but only seven of the nine will be administered. The subtests that will be administered to each child are: Sentence Comprehension, Linguistic Concepts, Word Structure, Word Classes, Following Directions, Formulated Sentences, and Recalling Sentences.
The Sentence Comprehension subtest will evaluate the ability to use correct grammatical rules at the sentence level. The Linguistic Concepts and Following Direction subtests will evaluate the ability to interpret spoken directions of increasing length and complexity that contain concepts requiring logical operations, remember the names, characteristics, and order of mentioned objects, and identify the pictured objects that are mentioned from among several choices.
The Word Structure subtest will evaluate the acquisition of English morphological rules with a sentence completion task. The Word Classes subtest will evaluate the ability to understand the relationships between words that are related by semantic class features and to express those relationships. The Formulated Sentences subtest will evaluate the ability to formulate grammatically correct sentences of increasing length and complexity.
Finally, the Recalling Sentences subtest will evaluate the ability to listen to spoken sentences of increasing length and complexity and repeat the sentences without changing word meanings, inflections, derivations, comparisons, or sentence structure. Data will be collected by giving each participant either a “1” for every correct answer or a “O” for every incorrect answer on each subtest question. At the end of each subtest, scores will be added together to determine a raw score, which will then be transcribed into a standard score, and then further correlated into a specific scaled score.
Each standard score can also be correlated to a percentile rate. The core subtests are used to compute the Receptive, Expressive, and Total Language index scores. Scaled scores for each individual subtest have a distribution of a mean of 10 and a standard deviation of three. Index scores have a distribution of a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Reliability coefficients from each subtest range from . 86 to . 94 across target ages. Average reliability coefficients from index scores range from . 95 to . 96 across target ages.
Internal consistency (correlation between the total scores of two half-tests) and test-retest (shortest possible time interval between the test and retest) reliabilities will be utilized. Validity evidence related to test consent consists of content relevance and content coverage, which includes a literature review, users’ feedback, and expert review. Procedures Following informed parental consent, trained research assistants designated to each preschool site will individually test each child at a neutral site to control for possible extraneous variables.
The child will give verbal assent and be given specific details regarding testing procedures before test administration. Test administration for each individual child will be conducted over the span of one hour. Each child will be given the opportunity to take two-minute breaks between every other subtest if needed. After test administration, the participants will be allotted a period of debriefing for questions, comments, or concerns. A prize will be given for general compliance.