The SEEL project began in 1998 with the funding of a federal model demonstration grant titled Project CALL (Contextualized Approach to Language and Literacy Instruction). The principal investigators, Drs. Barbara Culatta and Dana Kovarsky of the University of Rhode Island initially conducted the project in Head Start classrooms with the goal of providing preschool children who had non-majority cultural and linguistic backgrounds or language delays with effective and engaging early literacy instruction in regular classrooms. During SEEL activities children were presented with hands-on motivating encounters with literacy targets, then given opportunities to practice reading and writing about the target patterns.

Under Project CALL, this instruction was implemented exclusively in Rhode Island during its first year. During its second and third years, the project was expanded to include research and implementation in Utah as well. In 2001 the project was conducted in dual-language (Spanish-English) kindergarten classes in addition to English-speaking Head Start classrooms. The Spanish project, titled A LEER (Aprendiendo a Leer y Escribir a través de Experiencias Recreativas), provided the same types of engaging and systematic activities as its English language correlate. A LEER was employed in Spanish classrooms from 2001 to 2004 and is now under additional development. Upon completion of the grant in 2001, SEEL was further supported by Brigham Young University and expanded to include faculty from BYU’s David O. McKay School of Education.

The main developers of the SEEL project are Barbara Culatta, Kendra Hall-Kenyon, and Jolie Hill (biographical sketches provided below). Additional faculty members from the University of Rhode Island and Brigham Young University have added their expertise and efforts over the years. These include Geraldine Theadore and Dana Kovarsky from the University of Rhode Island and Gary Bingham, Sharon Black, Byran Korth, Barbara Lawrence, Ann Sharp, and John Wilkinson from Brigham Young University.

In addition to contributions by faculty members and staff at BYU, SEEL has benefited from the significant talents of undergraduate and graduate students. We are grateful for all they have given to the work.

Barbara Culatta

Dr. Barbara Culatta was recently released after serving for 10 years as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the David O. McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University. She has returned to full-time work as a professor in the BYU Communication Disorders Department. Dr. Culatta’s education in speech pathology includes a BS from California State University, an MS and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Culatta has either taught or worked as a speech pathologist for over 40 years at multiple institutions throughout the U.S., including the University of Pittsburgh, University of Kentucky, University of Rhode Island, and Brigham Young University. She is also an expert in early literacy and literacy intervention, receiving critical acclaim for her many publications and research developments in this field.


Kendra M. Hall-Kenyon

Dr. Kendra M. Hall-Kenyon is an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education in the David O. McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University. She has spent the last 20 years either studying or working in education. She received her BA in family science, as well as her MS and PhD in Human Development from Columbia University. Her work experience includes teaching first grade and implementing reading comprehension research at multiple institutions, including Columbia University and the Carnegie Foundation. Dr. Hall-Kenyon has been published in over 30 scholarly journals and has conducted numerous local, national, and international presentations.


Jolie Hill

Jolie Hill, MEd, is presently serving as the director of SEEL. Ms. Hill joined the SEEL team in 2006 after a long career as an early childhood educator, which included graduate studies in integrated teaching through the arts. Her expertise has been critical in developing and organizing SEEL resources, conducting mentored research, and implementing the program in BYU–Public School Partnership schools. She is often called on to represent SEEL and share her expertise in professional development sessions for local teachers and in multiple presentations at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).