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Sabina Bragg, PhD
June 2020

Educational Psychology
Learning, Development, and Instruction

Learning and Childhood Cancer; Shared Reading;
Vocabulary Learning; Parental Structured Reading Training



Dr. Bragg has an M.Ed. in Special Education from Virginia Commonwealth University as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education Leadership from Hofstra University. As a graduate student, she began her career in education working for the NYC DOE in a title I school in Far Rockaway, NY working with children with signigicant emotional and behavioral needs. She then spent seven years as an in-hospital teacher for the NYC Department of Education, teaching at the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Medical Center and the Children's Hospital of New York at NYP working with children battling cancer. Dr. Bragg has also served as an educational consultant for the Making Headway Foundation, acting as a school liaison for children who have experienced treatment for a brain tumor.  Her professional background teaching and advocating for children with cancer served as the inspiration for her dissertation research.

Dissertation Title:

"Parental Shared Reading Intervention: Examining the Effects of Structured Parental Reading Training on Vocabulary Acquisition in Children Undergoing Treatment for Leukemia"

Children diagnosed with leukemia often fail to progress academically, even falling behind due to hospitalizations and prolonged treatment protocols. Naturally, their medical challenges take priority over all other issues, though eventually absences from school place them at risk for academic deficits after the completion of treatment (Tsimicalis et al., 2018). As well, the neurotoxicity associated with chemotherapy damages their central nervous systems, exacerbating school related problems (Lewis et al., 2010). Since the survival rate for children with leukemia has improved dramatically in recent years, intervention aimed at ameliorating these problems has potent benefits. The current study compared structured and unstructured parental reading programs in a sample of children diagnosed with leukemia focused on improving their vocabulary growth, an important factor facilitating academic success. The parents of these children participated in the intervention with their children during hospitalization. Nineteen parent-child dyads were recruited to participate in this investigation. The implementation of two different forms of reading programs, dialogic reading (structured) and read-alouds (unstructured), took place after the parent participants had received training on these topics. The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R) served as the pre/post assessment of vocabulary, measuring any gains obtained by the children in both groups. Parents in both groups read aloud to their children on a daily basis during the five-week intervention period. To assess treatment fidelity, the principal investigator texted the parent participants weekly. This study analyzed PPVT-R data using pre and post growth scale values (GSV). GSV differences determined the significance of the vocabulary gains (Dunn & Dunn, 2007, p. 21). Results indicated that the main effect for the within-subjects factor, changes in value of the GSV, in the period between pre and post assessment, did reveal a significant difference. The data suggests areas for future research and the instructional implications of the findings.

Committee Members:

Dr. Helen L. Johnson (chairperson); Dr. Jay Verkuilen; Dr. Bobbie Kabuto; Dr. Patricia Ryan-Johnson; Dr. Katelyn McGee

Acknowledgements / Special Thanks:

I want to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my advisor, Dr. Helen Johnson for all of her guidance and support. I am so grateful for all of her time, insight, and encouragement that she has given me. Thanks to my committee members, Drs. Jay Verkuilen, Bobbie Kabuto, Kate McGee, and Patricia Ryan-Johnson for your advice, support, and expertise. I would also like to thank Dr. Toni Thompson for all of her advice and assistance.

This degree could not have been completed without the help of my entire family. My parents have been my backbone of support because they have given every free moment to help me through this project. Their endless love has made this dream possible. Mom, this could not have been completed without you. We truly share in this accomplishment. I want to thank my wonderful children, Quinn Eileen, Bobby and Hannah for letting mommy selfishly take the time I needed to complete this project. I love you more than anything and hope this accomplishment makes you proud. I want to express my deepest appreciation to my loving husband, Nate. Nate, the support given was essential, and I am grateful.

I would like to thank all of the families who participated in my research during such difficult periods in their lives. I am eternally grateful. My work is dedicated to all survivors of childhood cancer and their parents, children receiving treatment for cancer and their parents, and children with cancer who tragically lost their battle and their parents. God Bless.

What's Next?

Future plans include continuing to advocate for and help children with cancer improve educational opportunity during and after treatment.