SPELL - Language Acquisition via Play-Based Reading

SPELL - Language Acquisition via Play-Based Reading

An early and a good language development makea it easier to learn to read and to cope with school and later education, and therefore the language affects children’s possibilities in life. Unfortunately, many children begin school with too weak language skills, and thus they are already an important step behind at the first day of school. That is what SPELL must help change.

Time period:

2012 – 2015.

Target group:

3-6 years old children, who are in daycare. 

Number of participants:

Six municipalities, 134 nurseries, 5.350 children.     


SPELL is a curriculum-based course where pedagogues read books with the children in a way, which stimulates the language more than ordinary recitation does. The content builds on an American concept, Read it again! and it focuses on clear learning goals and a differentiation of the language acquisition in order to fit the level of the individual child.

SPELL runs over 20 weeks and it is tested in three variations:

  • Basis: SPELL is tested in daycare.
  • Basis + home: SPELL is tested in nursery. Also the children receive the 10 books and the parents receive assignment material that they can work on with their children.
  • Basis + extended pedagogical development: Pedagogues, who get extended pedagogical development, test SPELL.  

During the 20 weeks the pedagogues use 30 minutes on SPELL twice a week.

In association to SPELL we also examine the linguistic learning environment of the children in the home and in the daycare. In the daycare we look at both the arrangement and on the pedagogue’s linguistic practice as well as the linguistic relations of the children.    


The effect of SPELL will be evaluated through a randomized controlled trial. The intention is to examine, whether a goal-oriented language action in the daycare can strengthen the pedagogues’ work on strengthening the language acquisition of the children.  


The Danish Council for Strategic Research and Rambøll Management Consulting.     



The results from SPELL show that kindergarten children get significantly better linguistically of the SPELL-effort. A weekly hour of language activity (consisting of 2 x 30 min. sessions) in twenty weeks helps to improve the language skills of the kindergarten children during 6 months with 50 % or what on average would have taken the child 3 extra months to learn. That is a substantial effect.

The profit was not increased if the children received efforts in the home or if the pedagogues received extra pedagogical development. 

It is especially the pre-written competencies, such as e.g. rhyme and chants and knowledge of letters, the children improve in, while the linguistic competencies only are strengthened if more than half of the activity courses are completed.

Generally speaking the linguistic effort benefits different groups of children to the same extent. Whether the children have parents with a not-Danish background, low income or a short education, the effort gives an equal effect as for children with parents with a Danish background, high income or a long education. Hence, among them there are no significant differences on the effect of the effort.     


No publications in English.