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Three decades in: Priming for meta-analysis in play-literacy research

In this literature review, we examined 30 years of play-literacy inquiry through a quantitative lens in order to identify, assemble and summarize studies of sufficient methodological strength to form a corpus of research that encourages meta-analytic thinking. First, a multi-phase search of the literature was conducting yielding 192 studies that addressed pretend play and early literacy variables. Subsequent screening resulted in a total of 16 studies that met inclusion criteria, constituting a corpus of primary research that quantitatively measured play-literacy relationships in early childhood educational settings serving children ages 3—7. Next, several content analyses were used to describe and organize the corpus as a resource for meta-analytic thinking. The first round of analysis focused on developing a survey matrix that organized the particulars of individual studies into categories of information conducive to a meta-analytic approach. The second round probed for the theory of change used to explain the relations between pretend play interventions and early literacy skills. The third round entailed creating an effect size type matrix. Notably, most of the corpus studies showed modest to large effect sizes on a selected set of dependent variables which points to the potential of meta-analysis for better understanding the practical significance of the play-literacy relationship in promoting the acquisition of early literacy skills.