Using Headsprout to Teach Early Reading and Oral Language to At-Risk Preschoolers

Research Applies to: Headsprout

About This Research

This randomized controlled trial focused on examining the role of Headsprout in the language development, including oral language and early literacy, of preschoolers considered to be at risk for academic difficulties. While Headsprout was designed to teach reading rather than oral language, the program does teach skills related to oral language, such as vocabulary and speech production.

ESSA Evidence Level: Strong

This study meets strong evidence standards because it used a well-controlled experimental design and produced statistically significant positive effects. This study meets the sample size and multi-site requirements for strong evidence when considered cumulatively with other similar studies.*

Main Findings

Compared to students in the control group, students using Headsprout had higher posttest scores on both the early reading and oral language development measures. The differences were statistically significant with large effect sizes.


Participants were 64 low-income students enrolled in Head Start in the Southeastern United States. English was a second language for more than 50% of students.

Study Design and Procedures

This study used a randomized controlled trial design where participants were randomly assigned to the treatment (Headsprout) group or to a control group. Students in the treatment group completed Headsprout episodes for 30 minutes per day for eight weeks. The Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA-3) and the Test of Language Development-Primary (TOLD-P:3) were used to measure reading and oral language skills, respectively, during pre- and posttesting.


Huffstetter, M., King, J. R., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Schneider, J. J., & Powell-Smith, K. A. (2010). Effects of a computer-based early reading program on the early reading and oral language skills of at-risk preschool children. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 15, 279-298.

*Source: U.S. Department of Education (2016). Non-regulatory guidance: Using evidence to strengthen education investments. Washington, DC: Author.

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