BrightStart! Research Project

About the Project

The BrightStart! project involves a collaboration with the Nemours Children’s Health System, Columbus’ Ready4Success initiative, and local early childhood programs to examine the efficacy of the Nemours® BrightStart! program (NBS!). This is a 5-year randomized controlled trial funded by the Institute of Education Sciences.

NBS! is a small-group, emergent literacy intervention that provides extra support for preschoolers who are at risk for later reading difficulties. Developed by a team at the Nemours Children’s Health System, NBS! was initially used in a community partnership with preschool programs in Jacksonville, Florida. Research conducted during this partnership showed that the intervention improved preschoolers’ emergent literacy skills. It is now commercially available to early childhood programs and educators.

In this research project, we are studying the commercially available version of NBS! as used in Columbus-area early childhood classrooms. Our Ready4Success partners used an emergent literacy screener to identify eligible preschool children in each classroom. Some of these children were randomly selected to experience the NBS! lessons across their preschool year.  For half of the selected children, the lessons were provided by their classroom teacher. For the other half, the lessons were provided by a Ready4Success member (“community aide”) who visited the classroom to deliver intervention. We measured all participating children’s literacy skills at the beginning and end of the preschool year and will continue to follow children as they matriculate through elementary school. Ultimately, we want to determine whether NBS!, when carried out by teachers and community aides in typical early childhood classrooms, benefits children’s early literacy learning and helps to close reading achievement gaps.

To learn more about NBS!, visit the website or see the complete program here.

In our white paper Identifying and Helping Preschoolers in Columbus who may Benefit from Extra Literacy Support, Crane researchers assess the effectiveness of the Nemours BrightStart! program on children’s language and literacy skills.


This work has resulted in multiple peer-reviewed publications. To learn more, check out the published papers.

Small-Group, Emergent Literacy Intervention Under Two Implementation Models: Intent-to-Treat and Dosage Effects for Preschoolers At-Risk for Reading Difficulties

Supplemental, small-group emergent literacy intervention is a benefit for preschool-aged children identified as at risk for later reading difficulties. Crane researchers exam the effects of the Nemours BrightStart! (NBS!) intervention on children’s emergent literacy skills, when implemented by teachers and community aides in authentic preschool classrooms. Their findings have implications for revising the NBS! theory of change, conducting dosage and as-treated analyses, and moving research-based interventions toward scale-up.

The early writing skills of children identified as at-risk for literacy difficulties

Young children’s writing skills often receive less attention than their reading skills, and few early writing assessments are available. In this study, Crane researchers collaborated with Dr. Hope Gerde to examine the emergent writing skills of preschoolers identified as at-risk for later reading difficulties. The results showed that these children also had less-developed writing skills as compared to their peers and suggest that early writing differences can be identified through assessment. The findings indicate that early identification, and therefore intervention, is also possible for writing skills through literacy screenings.

Implementation of a small-group emergent literacy intervention by preschool teachers and community aides

Small-group emergent literacy interventions can boost early skills in preschoolers and set up a solid foundation for continued literacy learning. As these types of interventions are more and more available to preschool teachers, understanding whether they can be effectively implemented in typical classroom settings remains largely unknown. Crane researchers examined the Nemours® BrightStart! Program and its implementation in classroom settings. The findings have important implications for intervention development, use, and scalability.

Past research on NBS!

Read “Emergent Literacy Intervention for Prekindergarteners at Risk for Reading Failure” as published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Read “Emergent Literacy Intervention for Prekindergarteners at Risk for Reading Failure: Years 2 and 3 of a Multiyear Study” as published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Read “Efficacy of the Nemours® BrightStart! Early Literacy Program: Treatment Outcomes From a Randomized Trial With At-Risk Prekindergartners” as published in Early Education and Development.

Meet the Project Staff

Copy of Square Headshot Website

Shayne Piasta, PhD

Principal Investigator

Read more about Dr. Piasta here.

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Jessica Logan, PhD


Read more about Dr. Logan here.

BrightStart Headshots-Cynthia M Zettler-Greeley

Cindy Zettler-Greeley, PhD

Nemours® Partner

Read more about Dr. Zettler-Greeley here.

BrightStart Headshots–Laura Bailet

Laura Bailet, PhD

Nemours® Partner

Read more about Dr. Bailet here.

BrightStart Headshots-Kandia Lewis

Kandia Lewis, PhD

Nemours® Partner

Read more about Dr. Lewis here.

Additional Team Members

We would also like to recognize the work of our team’s doctoral students, Leiah Groom and Robin Sayers, former project coordinator Dr. Naomi Schneider, and field assessors Caleb Stinson and Marilyn Rogers.

Thank You

Many thanks to Shelby Dowdy and the Ready4Success team!