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Studying the Effectiveness of a Storytelling/Story-Acting Activity on Preschool Children’s School Readiness Skills in a Rural Ugandan Community Library. DR. GEOFF GOODMAN, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program VALEDA DENT, University Libraries ERIC YELLIN, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student
Studying the Effectiveness of a Storytelling/Story-ActingActivity on Preschool Children’s School Readiness Skills in a Rural Ugandan Community Library
DR. GEOFF GOODMAN, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program
VALEDA DENT, University Libraries
ERIC YELLIN, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student
LIU POST CAMPUS
MARCH 1, 2012
One of the legacies of colonialism on the African continent is the widespread illiteracy and entrenched poverty that interfere with its people’s full participation in the global economy. As of 1991, 54% of all Africans were illiterate. In some African countries, the illiteracy rate was over 90% (Kedem, 1991). Africa is also the poorest region in the world and the only major developing region with negative growth in income per capita during 1980 to 2000 (Sachs et al., 2004). In sub-Saharan Africa, the average daily wage is 74¢. The average life expectancy is 46 years, while the average child mortality rate (deaths before the age of 5 per 1,000 live births) is 172.5 (Sachs et al., 2004). Improvement in the literacy rate could provide the necessary conditions for an economic renaissance in Africa through mass dissemination of information that people could then use to produce goods and services in demand in other parts of Africa and overseas (Dent, 2007). The role of literacy in the functioning of the democratic process has also been noted (Kranich, 2001; Stilwell, 1989, 1991).
The Storytelling/Story-Acting Activity (STSA) is an activity developed by educator Vivian
Paley (e.g., 1990) in which children, through their engaged participation, are enabled and
encouraged to generate an ongoing practice of peer-oriented narrative collaboration. STSA
combines narrative and play that can be deeply engaging to children and, in the process,
helps them to develop strong language skills. As its name implies, the activity includes a
storytelling and a story-acting phase. At the beginning of the activity, any child who wishes
can dictate a story to the librarian, who writes down the story as the child tells it with minimal
intervention. Later during the activity, each story is read aloud to the entire group by the
librarian, while the child/author and other children, whom he or she chooses, act out the
story (Nicolopoulou & Cole, 2010).
1. To foster a culture of cooperation, inclusion, and collaborative learning in the library.
2. To promote children’s acquisition of key, mutually reinforcing elements of school readiness (i.e., narrative comprehension, social competence, emergent literacy).
a) STSA increases children’s vocabulary, language complexity, and story comprehension and production—skills found to promote literacy acquisition best.
b) In creating and acting in their own and others’ stories, children gain knowledge of the power of stories.
c) Telling stories for and with their peers and acting them out together for an audience helps children develop self-regulation and the capacity to make and maintain friends.
d) STSA promotes children’s abilities to understand others’ perspectives, including their internal worlds, thoughts, and emotions, and their coordination:
1) expressing increasingly complex and coherent stories
2) cooperating with other children during the dramatization of stories
3) enacting a fictional character and taking various characters’ points of view (Nicolopoulou & Childs, 2002-2003)
Children desire to realize their wishes through fantasy or imagination.
Two interconnected components of social pretend play (Vygotsky, 1978):
1) An imaginary situation (a possible world)
2) Rules that define and create the imaginary situation.
In play, children self-consciously impose rules on themselves rather than receiving them from others. Play pushes the child beyond the perceptually bound world to the creation—in imagination—of a symbolic world dominated by meanings, with its own internal logic, in which action arises from ideas (internal mental world) rather than things (Nicolopoulou, 1997).
In STSA, children experience stories contextualized by the actions of themselves and others. Because a play scenario is acted out, children can see more clearly how things fit—or don’t fit—together in the scenario that they tried to create only with words.
Writing Benita’s Story
Acting Benita’s Story
1. Children who participate in the Kitengesa Community Library Storytelling/Story-Acting (STSA) activity once per week will have higher scores in three domains of school readiness (emergent literacy, narrative comprehension, and social competence) than children who live in Kitengesa and Ggulema and do not participate in this activity.
2. Primary caregiver reading/literacy habits, cumulative social/contextual risk, and primary caregiver sensitivity relating to the child will moderate the effect of group placement (Kitengesa reading group participation, Kitengesa nonparticipation, Ggulema nonparticipation) on school readiness outcomes.
1. Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS), an 11-item survey that assesses SES (Tanser et al., 2008; 10 minutes)
Cellphone, Television, Video Recorder or DVD, Radio/Stereo, Cattle, Other Livestock, Telephone, Electricity Supply, Car, Motor Scooter, Bicycle, Tractor, Cement Floors
2. Supplemental Questionnaire, a 25-item survey that supplements information from the ACDIS and provides additional information about SES and social support (Schaefer, Coyne, & Lazarus, 1981; 10 minutes)
Whom can you confide in?
Whom could you turn to in an emergency?
Whom could you turn to after surgery?
1.Dartmouth COOP Charts, a 9-item survey that assesses the quality of the person’s physical health and its effects on their quality of life on nine key health-related dimensions during the past two weeks:
Feelings, Daily Activities, Pain, Physical Fitness, Change in Health, Social Activities, Social Support (during past four weeks), Overall Health, Quality of Life (during past four weeks)
This instrument has been used previously in Uganda (Nelson et al., 1987; Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha, Mayon-White, Okong, Carpenter, & Jenkinson, 2006; 10 minutes)
2. SF-36 Health Survey—Item 9 (Depression), a 9-item measure of depression during the past four weeks (Ware, Snow, Kosinski, & Gandek, 1993; 5 minutes)
Full of Life, Nervous Person, Down in Dumps, Calm and Peaceful, A Lot of Energy, Downhearted and Low, Worn Out, Happy Person, Tired
1. Oral Retelling Task, which consists oftelling a story to a puppet, then asking the child to retell the same story to the puppet. Afterward, the child is asked seven questions that assess the child’s story comprehension (Nicolopoulou et al., 2010; 2 minutes)
2. Picture Sequence Task, which consists of two sets of four pictures each. For each set of four pictures, the child is asked to tell a story. After the first set, the child is asked seven questions that assess the child’s story comprehension. After the second set, the child is asked three questions that assess the child’s story comprehension (Nicolopoulou et al., 2010; 5 minutes)
3. Single Picture Task, which consists of showing a picture of two children, a dragon, and a nest of eggs, then telling a story about the picture. Afterward, the child is asked seven questions that assess the child’s story comprehension (Nicolopoulou et al., 2010; 2 minutes)
4. Spontaneous Story Task, in which the child is told: “I need your help. I am putting together a book of children’s stories. Could you tell me a story for my book?” (Nicolopoulou et al., 2010; 2 minutes)
1. 5 Theory of Mind Tasks that assess the child’s awareness of how mental states such as memories, beliefs, desires, and intentions govern the behavior of self and others (Peterson, Wellman, & Liu, 2005; 10 minutes)
2. Recognition of Emotion Concepts Task, which consists of a series of 30 pictures in which the child is shown four cartoon drawings (including the target emotion and three distractors) and asked to identify the picture that corresponds to the word provided (Domitrovich, Cortes, & Greenberg, 2007; 5 minutes)
3. Play Interview, a 9-item measure of the child’s pretend play abilities, which are believed to be precursors to successful social pretend play (Nicolopoulou, Brockmeyer, de Sá, Ilgaz, & Cortina, 2011; Taylor, 1999; 5 minutes)
4. Day/Night Task, a 16-trial measure of inhibitory control, which is believed to be an important component of self-regulation and thus social competence (Domitrovich et al., 2007; 3 minutes)
5. Tapping Test, a 16-trial measure of inhibitory control, which is believed to be an important component of self-regulation and thus social competence (Domitrovich et al., 2007; 3 minutes)
6. The Attachment Story-Completion Task is a semi-structured interview used to assess the child’s internal working model or mental representation of the attachment relationship to the primary caregiver. The ASCT consists of five story stems designed “to access the internal working models of attachment...through a story-completion task, acted out with small family figures” (Bretherton, Ridgeway, & Cassidy, 1990, p. 284; 20 minutes)
1. Kilifi Picture Vocabulary Test, a 24-picture measure of receptive vocabulary that has been translated into Luganda, the native language of these children, by Maggie Nampijja, a Ugandan child development researcher (Holding et al., 2004; Nampijja et al., 2010; 4 minutes)
2. Bracken Basic Concept Scale-III—School Readiness Composite (SRC), an 85-item interview that assesses school readiness skills in five domains (Bracken, 2006; 10 minutes)
1. Assessment of narrative comprehension failed.
a) The assessment instruments could be culturally biased.
b) Telling a story based on pictorial stimuli is an unfamiliar process to the children because they are unaware that a pictorial symbol carries a meaning that can be expressed verbally in the construction of a story.
c) Children’s memories are not processing information in a linear manner required of understanding a text.
d) These children seem to perform better on highly structured tasks that contextualize meanings with actions (e.g., Attachment Story-Completion Task).
2. Cumulative social-contextual risk did not predict school readiness skills. Perhaps an attenuated range limited potential significant findings.
3. Nonverbally mediated self-regulation as assessed by the Tapping Test predicted school readiness skills after controlling for receptive vocabulary skills.
a) Perhaps only nonverbally mediated tasks are valid for this sample.
b) Perhaps motoric self-regulation is instrumental in attending to and concentrating on school-based learning tasks assessed by the Bracken School Readiness Assessment.
4. Not controlling for child’s age and receptive vocabulary, children’s theory of mind mediated the relation between caregiver depression and school readiness skills. Higher depression levels were positively correlated with more school readiness skills.
a) Caregivers who are more aware of their depression (less in denial) are also more aware of the mental states of their children, which in turn facilitates their children’s acquisition of theory of mind.
b) Some clinical literature has criticized self-report measures of clinical symptoms because of the self-report biases associated with social and intrapersonal desirability (Shedler, Mayman, & Manis, 1993, 1994).
Conduct the same evaluation on all three groups of caregivers and children to determine the effectiveness of the STSA activity on school readiness skills.
Caregiver and Child Transcription
Cassia Mosdell (accepted for fall, 2012)
Kitengesa Community Library Founder
Extramural Grant Funding
International Psychoanalytical Association
International Reading Association (under review)
Dr. Paul Forestell, Provost, LIU Post
Ugandan Project Coordinator
American Project Coordinator
Visit Kitengesa Community Library www.kitengesalibrary.org