Shared book reading intervention for autistic pre-schoolers

Published February 2017

Literacy learning commences from birth and this period of literacy development is often referred to as the emergent literacy stage (Pullen & Justice, 2003). During those early years, many children engage in a variety of activities that promote early literacy including shared book reading with their parents or caregivers. There is ample empirical evidence with typical populations confirming the importance of these shared home book reading practices in enhancing young children’s emergent literacy skills (Fletcher & Reese, 2005; Sénéchal, 1997).

Although literacy is not considered a core impairment for children on the autism spectrum, approximately 40% of school-aged children on the autism spectrum struggle with reading (Nation, Clarke, Wright, & Williams, 2006), and results from our recently published study (Westerveld et al., 2017) revealed significant difficulties in emergent literacy in this group of children.

The current study aimed to investigate if a shared book reading intervention would help facilitate early functional spoken language and emergent literacy skills in preschoolers on the autism spectrum in a context that is part of most family routines (Marquenie, Rodger, Mangohig, & Cronin, 2011). The small–scale study built on the existing research showing the efficacy of shared book reading with typically developing children (Mol, De Jong, Smeets, & Bus, 2008; Sénéchal, 1997). It is the first of its kind using a block randomised design to investigate the effectiveness of this type of intervention for improving both parent-child book reading behaviours and the spoken language skills of preschool children on the autism spectrum.