Green Eggs and Ham” and pup­pets sound more like they belong in a pre-​​school class­room than in the hands of a col­lege stu­dent, but Northeastern’s asso­ciate pro­fessor and grad­uate director of speech-​​language pathology, Therese O’Neil-Pirozzi, would beg to differ.

For the past 13 years, she has been over­seeing a weekly pro­gram for under­grad­uate and grad­uate stu­dents, who help expand the lan­guage lit­eracy of chil­dren in Boston home­less shel­ters by reading and engaging them in arts and crafts that will improve their motor skills.

O’Neil-Pirozzi’s research in this area, funded in part by Northeastern’s Insti­tute on Urban Health Research, shows that lan­guage delays in preschool chil­dren living in home­less shel­ters are asso­ci­ated with sim­ilar deficits in their mothers. The stu­dent sto­ry­telling group project is one approach that she is using to address the issue.

We want to teach the chil­dren a love of lan­guage, a love of reading, and also serve as role models for the par­ents and the vol­un­teers and staff at the shel­ters so that they can help the chil­dren become aca­d­e­m­i­cally suc­cessful down the road,” she said.

About 40 stu­dents vol­un­teer each year and visit the shelter in groups of four to eight. While reading to the chil­dren, the stu­dents use strate­gies that boost lan­guage lit­eracy devel­op­ment and rein­force the book’s theme. Then they re-​​read the book, allowing the chil­dren to play a more active role by using the vocab­u­lary in the book and prac­ticing sen­tence construction.

Activ­i­ties that engage children’s motor skills — like encour­aging them to re-​​enact the char­ac­ters in a book — are also included in the lessons.

Because many home­less fam­i­lies tran­si­tion in and out of shel­ters rel­a­tively quickly, it is chal­lenging to gauge the improve­ment in the children’s lit­eracy, but O’Neil– Pirozzi and her stu­dents are able to observe changes, she said.

The chil­dren have really been making an effort to join in and their interest and under­standing is growing, which is really exciting to see,” said Alicia Logani, a third-​​year speech-​​language pathology major who vol­un­teers at the shelters.

Every time we go, the kids wait for us by the win­dows and yell ‘they’re here, they’re here,’ ” said O’Neil-Pirozzi. “They greet us with hugs and that’s a sign that they’re enjoying what we’re doing, which is one of our goals.”

Ulti­mately, O’Neil-Pirozzi hopes that this expe­ri­ence will help to “shatter some of the stereo­types people have about home­less­ness and realize that there isn’t much that sep­a­rates home­less fam­i­lies from fam­i­lies who have homes.”