FOCUS on Learning

Start Date: 2009
Funder: National Institutes of Health

Child Study Center website

FOCUS on Learning aims to test interventions designed to improve the academic and social adjustment of young children who enter school low in reading readiness. Children are identified in kindergarten and assigned to one of two intervention conditions. In the first group, parents receive packets of learning games and materials that are mailed home to them periodically. These include instructions for how to use them at home.

The second, more intensive condition involves bi-weekly home visits from a Family Educator, who provides books, games, and learning materials and coaches parents in ways to support and encourage their children’s learning. Additionally, families in this group receive a laptop computer loaded with the Destination Reading game, which provides practice with basic reading skills. This program provides 12 sessions during kindergarten and an additional 6 sessions during the first half of first grade.

To determine the effectiveness of the program, children are assessed prior to the intervention and again at the end of first, second, and third grades.

The project is currently entering its second year, with families participating in four school districts around the state: Mifflin County, Juniata County, Spring Cove, and School District of Lancaster.

Project Team Members

Janet Welsh photo

Principal Investigator

Janet Welsh


Karen Bierman photo

Co-Principal Investigator

Karen Bierman


Scott Gest photo


Scott Gest


Rob Nix photo


Rob Nix


Paul Morgan photo


Paul Morgan


Tracy Spalvins photo

Research Coordinator

Tracy Spalvins


Julia Gest photo

Clinical Supervisor

Julia Gest


Family Educators

Stella Robinson


Lisa Knudson


Director of Coding Lab

Celina Stewart-Smith


Contact Us

Janet Welsh, Ph.D.

Phone: (814) 865-3691


Prevention Research Center
The Pennsylvania State University
S109 Henderson Building
University Park, PA 16802