Feasibility of a Brief, Medical-Student Led Educational Intervention for Early Literacy in Homeless Children

Kaitlyn Petruccelli, Amy Hersh, Joshua J Davis, Tara Berman


Introduction: Promoting early literacy is one of the most important ways for caregivers to set their children up for success later in life. Homeless youth are at a marked increase risk for decreased literacy compared to their peers. The goal of this project is to assess the feasibility of a medical-student based educational intervention to increase early literacy awareness among homeless mothers of young children.


Methods: Two medical students were trained to give a brief, educational intervention to mothers in a homeless shelter at the same time as a student-run health clinic was conducted. Before and after the intervention, mothers were asked to complete a short survey on the importance of literacy to their child and their intention to read to their child. The children of these mothers were allowed to select a book to keep after the intervention.


Results: Sixty-six mothers completed the pre and post surveys. Most of the mothers were unemployed and had been homeless less than 6 months. Mothers identified not having enough time, a quiet place, or enough money as the most common barriers to reading to their children. Before the intervention, 65% indicated reading to their child less than 1 hour per week. After the intervention, 85% indicated an intention to read more than one hour per week to their child.


Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that a brief, medical-student based educational intervention is feasible and can improve intention to read among certain homeless mothers. Much more research is needed to confirm the efficacy of this intervention in this population.

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