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Reading (Primary) -- Oregon, Tutors and tutoring -- Oregon, Community and school -- Oregon, Literacy programs -- Oregon -- Evaluation


The goal of the Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) program is to support young children to develop early reading and literacy skills, as well as to increase their interest, confidence, and enthusiasm about reading. SMART pairs trained adult volunteers with PreK-3 rd grade children, primarily in schools serving significant proportions of low-income families. Thus, SMART augments the one-on-one reading support available in typical elementary schools. Volunteers read to children for 30 minutes, either once or twice a week, and provide books that children can take home and keep for themselves. Prior evaluation research (Baker, Gersten, & Keating, 2000) found that children who participated in SMART had better word identification and comprehension skills compared to similar children randomly assigned to a control group. However, since this study was conducted, the SMART model has evolved; in particular, the recognition that many children start kindergarten lacking basic early literacy skills led the SMART program to develop and implement two “early” SMART models: PreK SMART, implemented in prekindergarten programs with 3-5 year olds, and KSMART, implemented in kindergarten classrooms.

The PreK and KSMART models differ somewhat from SMART services provided to older children. One key difference is the use of a universal model in which all children in a classroom receive support from a SMART reader. This is in contrast to a targeted model in which only children with identified literacy concerns are selected to participate in SMART services. Universal provision of SMART services helps both reduce any stigma associated with participation in SMART, as well as ensuring that all children have the potential to benefit from reading support in the critical early years. PreK and KSMART reading sessions are also somewhat shorter than sessions for older children, as these children are not developmentally ready to be read to for long periods of time. PreK and K SMART sessions are approximately 15- 20 minutes long. Finally, providing books for young children to bring home is a key part of PreK and KSMART service models, with all participating children receiving 2 books per month to keep for themselves.

The purpose of this evaluation was to begin to understand the effectiveness of these early SMART models in building young children’s interest and confidence in reading. In Year 1, several major tasks were accomplished: identification of measureable outcomes appropriate for PreK and KSMART; development of a tool for measuring such outcomes; and implementation of a streamlined, user-friendly data collection process that would not create undue burden on project partners. To assess preliminary outcomes and prepare for a larger roll-out of the evaluation in Year 2, the data collection tool and process was piloted with an initial group of PreK and kindergarten classrooms. Early results suggested that the tool was indeed capturing the dimensions of interest, but the relatively small sample size also limited interpretation of the initial findings. Thus, a major goal for Year 2 was to recruit additional classrooms and increase sample size. Unfortunately, some challenges were encountered in Year 2 in recruiting school sites (kindergarten classrooms) for participation, particularly in recruiting control classrooms. Likewise, unavoidable factors such as teacher turnover ultimately reduced the number of classrooms reporting complete data. As a result, the decision was made to combine the data from Year 1 and Year 2, in order maximize sample size for the purposes of analysis. This report summarizes the combined findings from Year 1 and Year 2 (2012-2014) of the evaluation.


This is the Year Two Final Evaluation Report for the Evaluation of the Start Making a Reader Today (SMART).

A product of the Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services at Portland State University.

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