Research Quick Links
Benefits Summary  •  Who Benefits  •  Achievement  •  Behaviors
Speech Recognition  •  Teacher Preference  •  Cost Effectiveness

Researching Achievement - Study Detail


Impact of Sound Enhancement on Phonemic Awareness in Pre-schoolers

by Carol Flexer, Kate Kemp Biley, Alyssa Hinkley, Cheryl Harkema, and John Holcomb

The percentage of 4th grade students reading at or above Proficient (as defined by the National Assessment Governing Board – NAGB) has increased from 29% in 1992 to 32% in 2000. However, this still means that about one third of fourth graders in the United States could read at their grade level, and while scores for the nation’s highest performing students have improved over the years, scores of the lowest performing students have declined.i

The following study (published in The Hearing Journal, March 2002; vol.55, number 3) was an investigation into how to improve emergent reading skills through the use of sound enhancement technology and teacher training. Specifically, it was to determine if early phonological and phonemic awareness training, coupled with the use of sound enhancement, would reduce the number of children identified as at-risk readers by low scores on the Yopp-Singer Test of Phonemic Segmentation.

The following table describes the three groups of children (4 year olds) in the study who were tracked from their second semester in pre-school through the end of their first semester in kindergarten. The study continued for one year.

Group A
Control group:
Children received the districtís standard pre-school and kindergarten curriculum.
Group B
Phonological and phonemic awareness group:
Children received direct, group phonological and phonemic awareness instruction for 15 minutes, four times a week, starting the second semester of their pre-school year and continuing to the end of their first semester of their kindergarten year.
Group C
Phonological and phonemic awareness group & SES*:
Teacher used the classroom sound system daily, and children received direct, group phonological awareness instruction for 15 minutes, four times each week, starting the second semester of their preschool year and continuing to the end of their first semester of their kindergarten year.

Some statistically significant differences were found amongst the scores of the three groups. Post-hoc testing indicated that scores in both Groups B and C were significantly higher than scores in the control group. The difference between Groups B and C is not statistically significant, but statistical significance is very difficult to achieve with a group size of 7 subjects (Group B).

Another outcome variable is the number of children in each group who scored poorly (5 or less) on the second administration of the Yopp-Singer Test, indicating that they were at risk for later reading problems if intervention did not occur. At the second administration at the end of their first semester in kindergarten, 13 children (57%) in the control group (A) scored 5 and below, and only 4 (17%) scored above the mean score. In Group B, 3 children (43%) scored 5 and below and 4 (57%) scored above the norm. In Group C (the phonological and phonemic awareness plus sound enhancement), only 2 children (9%) scored 5 and below on the post test and 18 (78%) scored above the mean. The addition of sound enhancement technology appeared to make a substantial difference.

This study revealed a trend toward greater development of phonemic awareness skills when sound enhancement was added to phonemic awareness instruction. The fewest at-risk readers came out of the pre-school and kindergarten classrooms that were sound enhanced.


* SES = Sound Enhancement System


  1. National Center for Education Statistics: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1992-2000 Reading Assessments. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research Improvement, 2001.