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Dr. Stephen Hooper, the Department of Allied Health Sciences Associate Dean and Chair, will serve as principal investigator of the project.

The UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences received a $3.3 million grant to establish a stronger scientific foundation for educational practice within early literacy. By using recent advances in cognitive science and neuroscience, this study will be one of the first of its kind to examine the impact of an evidence-based intervention on the development of early writing skills in preschool children at risk for learning difficulties.

“Nearly all of the early literacy literature has addressed the development of fundamental reading skills, and far too often the development of written language skills are minimally addressed at best,” said Stephen Hooper, PhD, the Department of Allied Health Sciences Associate Dean and Chair. He will serve as the principal investigator of this four-year project.

The study will be funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, and it will be one of the first to focus on improving early writing skills via a randomized, controlled trial using an evidence-based intervention for preschool children. By examining the efficacy of the intervention and the conditions under which it is most effective, the research team will address a compelling educational need.

Hooper’s team will identify factors that may alter the effect of the intervention including fine-motor abilities, executive functions, language skills, and aspects of home environment and classroom literacy on early literacy skills, particularly early written expression. All of the participants will be followed into kindergarten to determine the effect of the intervention in a formal schooling setting.

“We are excited to begin this venture and look forward to working with our Head Start Programs in the region to promote this important area of early learning for children who may need it most,” Hooper said.

Funding for this project began in July 2017 and will extend to June 2021. For information about this project, as well as our other studies in childhood written expression, please contact Dr. Lara Costa at