In the current study, the researchers suggest a new program that can teach preschoolers reading skills along fostering social skills.
In the new program known as the REDI (Research-Based, Developmentally Informed) Head Start program, the researchers combined a program that fosters social and emotional development (Preschool PATHS) with curriculum components that promote language development and pre-reading skills.
REDI program emphasizes pre-reading skills such as learning the alphabet, and learning to manipulate the sounds that letters represent.
It also allows ample time for teachers to read interactively with children, asking them questions and encouraging their active involvement in story telling, which builds the vocabulary and language skills needed for later school success.
Many of the reading sessions focus on social problems and involve fictional characters that learn to master the emotional frustrations and conflicts common among groups of preschoolers.
"The lesson teach them to take a time out from their emotions, to avoid acting impulsively," said Karen Bierman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Psychology at Penn State University.
"Stating what's bothering them, and how they feel, is the basis for self control and problem solving in stressful social situations," Bierman added.
Other lessons involve learning how to recognize such emotions as anger and sadness in oneself and others, sharing, and taking turns.
When compared to children in the traditional Head Start program, children in the REDI program scored higher on several tests of emotional and social development than did children in the traditional program.
Children in the REDI program also scored higher on several tests of pre-reading skills involving vocabulary, blending letter sounds together to form words, separating words into their component letter sounds, and in naming the letters of the alphabet.