Are better communicators better readers? An exploration of the connections between narrative language and reading comprehension
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AbstractThe association between receptive language skills and reading comprehension has been established in the research literature. Even when the importance of receptive skills for reading comprehension has been strongly supported, in practice lower levels of skills tend to go unnoticed in typically developing children. A potentially more visible modality of language, expressive skills using speech samples, has been rarely examined despite the longitudinal links between speech and later reading development, and the connections between language and reading impairments. Even fewer reading studies have examined expressive skills using a subgroup of speech samples – narrative samples – which are closer to the kind of language practitioners can observe in their classrooms, and are also a rich source of linguistic and discourse-level data in school-aged children. This thesis presents a study examining the relationship between expressive language skills in narrative samples and reading comprehension after the first two years of formal reading instruction, with considerable attention given to methodological and developmental issues. In order to address the main methodological issues surrounding the identification of the optimal linguistic indices in terms of reliability and the existence of developmental patterns, two studies of language development in oral narratives were carried out. The first of the narrative language studies drew data from an existing corpus, while the other analysed primary data, collected specifically for this purpose. Having identified the optimal narrative indices in two different samples, the main study examined the relationships between these expressive narrative measures along with receptive standardised measures, and reading comprehension in a monolingual sample of eighty 7- and 8-year-old children attending Year 3 in the UK. Both receptive and expressive oral language skills were assessed at three different levels: vocabulary, grammar and discourse. Regression analyses indicated that, when considering expressive narrative variables on their own, expressive grammar and vocabulary, in that order, contributed to explain over a fifth of reading comprehension variance in typically developing children. When controlling for receptive language however, expressive skills were not able to account for significant unique variance in the outcome measure. Nonetheless, mediation analyses revealed that receptive vocabulary and grammar played a mediating role in the relationship between expressive skills from narratives and reading comprehension. Results and further research directions are discussed in the context of this study’s methodological considerations.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
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