Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Language Intervention Research in Early Childhood Care and Education: A Systematic Survey of the Literature

Walker, D., Sepulveda, S.J., Hoff, E., Rowe, M.L., Schwartz, I.S., Dale, P.S., Peterson, C.A., Diamond, K., Goldin-Meadow, S., Levine, S.C., Wasik, B.H., Horm, D.M., Bigelow, K.M. (2020) Language Intervention Research in Early Childhood Care and Education: A Systematic Survey of the Literature. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 50(1), 68-85.,

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Publication year


study description

Systematic survey of the literature.

core topic(s)

Early Literacy

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Child Development (general) , Clinic-Based Programs and Interventions , Language and Literacy Development , Programs and Interventions (other) , School Readiness and Educational Outcomes


We report the findings from a systematic survey of research on non-parental interventions, with the goal of identifying strengths and weaknesses in current literature which can inform current practice and also guide the design of future research.

outcomes evaluated

Intervention related research.


Studies were identified using a systematic search protocol of the communication and language intervention literature for children from birth through 5 years of age.

sample size

n=190 (studies)


Measure of Inclusion Criteria: a 110-question coding survey to address issues relevant to communication and language intervention research. Informing the development of the survey were resources including the What Works Clearinghouse Procedures and Standards Hand-book 3.0 (WWC Procedures and Standards, 2014), the Division for Early Childhood Recommended Practices (DEC-RP, 2014). Broadly, the coding survey questions included: citation information, purpose of the study, child and adult participant characteristics including cultural and linguistic diversity, disability and risk status, research design, numbers of participants and attrition, intervention type, length and procedures, measurement features – technical adequacy, fidelity of intervention, training and professional development, analytic approach, reported results, study limitations and implications.


One hundred and ninety studies published between 1975 and 2015 met the specified inclusion criteria, which included the experimental manipulation of at least one relevant intervention variable and applying and testing an intervention or practice with the purpose of improving child communication or language outcomes. The studies reviewed include some well-documented and validated intervention strategies that have potential to be useful for addressing the word gap. This survey of the literature exposes gaps in the knowledge base about language interventions for infants and toddlers. Inadequacies in reporting the characteristics of child and adult study participants as well as a lack of details about the application of interventions across child care and early learning settings or their effectiveness with economically, culturally and linguistically diverse populations are addressed.


Implications for the design and reporting of future research to address the word gap discussed.


Not discussed.