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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

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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

history of the rural library project and relevant research
History of the Rural Library Project and Relevant Research
  • Uganda, East Africa – Three impact studies (2004, 2005, 2006) conducted at Kitengesa Community Library (Dent; Dent & Yannotta). Longitudinal study of intergenerational impact (Goodman & Dent, 2009, 2011).
  • Burkina Faso, West Africa – Impact study at five rural libraries (Bereba, Dohoun, Sara, Karaba, and Koumbia) in 2006 & 2007. Surveys at Bereba Secondary School (Dent).
  • Ghana, West Africa – Impact study at Sherigu and Sumbrungu in 2004 & 2005 (Dent, Entrup).
the research setting
The Research Setting

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).

current research study overview
Current Research Study Overview

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).

stsa goals
STSA Goals

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)

play in relation to stsa
Play in Relation to STSA

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.

storytelling story acting protocol
Storytelling/Story-Acting Protocol

Writing Benita’s Story

storytelling story acting protocol9
Storytelling/Story-Acting Protocol

Acting Benita’s Story

research hypotheses
Research Hypotheses

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.

ses indicators
SES Indicators

1. Africa Centre Demographic Information System (ACDIS), an 11-item survey that assesses SES (Tanser et al., 2008; 10 minutes)

Total Possessions:

  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)

Social Support:

Whom can you confide in?

Whom could you turn to in an emergency?

Whom could you turn to after surgery?

caregivers physical health quality of life depression
Caregivers’ Physical Health/Quality of Life/Depression

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

cumulative social contextual risk
Cumulative Social-Contextual Risk
  • Children Under Age 6
  • Caregiver’s Age When First Child Born
  • Daily Household Income
  • Total Possessions
  • Level of Education
  • In or Out of Relationship
  • Quality of Significant Relationship
  • Employment Status
  • Level of Social Support
  • Physical Health/Quality of Life
  • Depression
children s narrative comprehension
Children’s Narrative Comprehension

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)

children s social competence
Children’s Social Competence

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)

children s emergent literacy
Children’s Emergent Literacy

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)

  • Colors
  • Letters
  • Numbers/counting
  • Sizes/comparisons
  • Shapes
slide24
Prediction of School Readiness Skills Using Hierarchical Multiple-Regression Analysis, Controlling for Child Age and Receptive Vocabulary
summary of findings at time 1
Summary of Findings at Time 1

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. 

summary of findings at time 1 continued
Summary of Findings at Time 1 (continued)

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). 

next steps
Next Steps

Conduct the same evaluation on all three groups of caregivers and children to determine the effectiveness of the STSA activity on school readiness skills.

sociocultural implications
Sociocultural Implications
  • Literacy development (library programs) for the youngest readers.
  • Role of primary caregivers important, how can the library support them?
  • Reading culture development key for economic development.
  • Continue to measure the library’s impact on students as they grow older.
  • Use findings to support creation of new village libraries, as well as programmatic and collection development for these libraries.
project acknowledgments
Project Acknowledgments

Subject Recruitment

Julius Ssentume

Ssewanyana Baker

Materials Design

Tina Lo

Dustin Kahoud

Data Entry

Tina Lo

Geoff Goodman

Caregiver and Child Transcription

Jennifer Andersen

Brianna Blake

Deborah Chu

Melissa DeFalco

Stephanie Fernandez

Cassia Mosdell (accepted for fall, 2012)

Jane Piesman

Danielle Sauro

David Shin

Eric Yellin

Kitengesa Community Library Founder

Kate Parry

Extramural Grant Funding

International Psychoanalytical Association

International Reading Association (under review)

Student Support

Dr. Paul Forestell, Provost, LIU Post

Principal Investigators

Geoff Goodman

Valeda Dent

Caregiver Interviewers

Valeda Dent

Chantal Watler

Caregiver Translators

Ssewanyana Baker

Nakayiba Sophia

Child Interviewers

Geoff Goodman

Eric Yellin

Child Translators

Julius Ssentume

Nanyonjo Haliima 

Ugandan Project Coordinator

Julius Ssentume

American Project Coordinator

Tina Lo 

Documentarian

Eric Yellin

Visit Kitengesa Community Library www.kitengesalibrary.org