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Early intervention

How do pre-reading children use cognitive thinking skills and word skills to understand spoken text? That’s the mystery Brenda Hannon, assistant professor of psychology, is trying to solve.

“There are no good tools to identify if a young child is going to have problems learning and reading, so I’m working on developing, testing and comparing measures that would help make that determination,” said Hannon, who’s been working on the project for about a year.

Hannon is working with children and parents in the UTSA community. The kids spend two hours in a lab on the Main Campus viewing animated pictures and listening to various texts. The children are tested for their understanding of the pictures, auditory text and auditory words. The children also are asked to compare similarities and differences between images, and a researcher records the data.

According to Hannon, the children’s prior knowledge from memory is tested and their deductive and inductive reasoning skills also are being tested when new information is presented in some of the tasks.

“I hope this research provides a foundation for learning/thinking research with pre-readers,” Hannon said. “I also hope that some of the new measures I develop might lead to the development of diagnostic tools that will help parents and educators. After all, if we know in advance that a child might have problems with reading then we can be proactive and start interventions early.”

She said the first phase of the project should end this summer but she hopes to continue with variants on the research, such as pre-adolescent second-language learners.

—Kris Rodriguez

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