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“LALA” – An early reading programme for Kindergarten

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Published on Wednesday, 04 April 2018

Researchers at the University of Luxembourg have developed a reading programme for preschools which aims to prevent learning difficulties in children and give them a better start for their school career.

Every year around 5,000 children in Luxembourg are admitted to preschool ("Spillschoul"). Studies have shown that nearly half of the children under the age of nine do not meet national education standards in reading. Researchers at the University of Luxembourg have now developed a programme that helps avert learning difficulties before they even occur. This programme, called in Luxembourgish “LALA - Lauter lëschte Lauter” (“many different sounds”), was developed for the first school cycle.

It consists of short language games and activities in Luxembourgish, which the teacher can do several times a week with his class. At the heart of activities is the parrot Lala, who visits the children in the classroom. The material and activities benefit from latest research results and take in account the Luxembourgish school context, as well as the multilingual pupil community.

“Even before they attend primary school, children need to develop certain abilities that will later make learning to read easier. With the right methods, you can encourage these so-called “precursor abilities” at preschool and thus help the children to read better later,” explains Prof. Pascale Engel de Abreu, who coordinates the project at the University.

Tested in practice and evaluated scientifically

The programme was applied and scientifically tested during five years in Luxembourg schools. More than 200 children and eight schools participated in the development of the research project and its implementation. Over twelve weeks, four schools worked with the LALA programme, while four other schools worked with a regular school programme. The results were very positive: children who benefitted from the LALA programme developed precursor abilities sooner than the others. For the researchers, it is particularly encouraging that children who speak a different language than Luxembourgish at home also made good progress through the LALA programme - although it is conducted in Luxembourgish.

“I notice that the children in my class are already listening more closely. They are able to detect more quickly a specific sound in a word or spell a word, "says Nancy Kreis, a teacher in second cycle in preschool, whose pupils worked with the LALA programme the previous year.

Four schools are currently working with the LALA research version. The project has received the support from the Lions Club Mondorf-les-Bains and the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR). “I am delighted that the FNR now supports us in our work to incorporate the latest research results, so that in the near future LALA could be used in all Luxembourgish preschools,” explains Prof. Engel de Abreu.