Academia and Life Through Literacy and Reading Term Paper

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Academia and Life Through Literacy and Reading Comprehension

Literacy and reading comprehension are subjects that have been explored for decades. Through these explorations we have discovered that comprehension is an essential component in the ability of a person to succeed in academia and in life.

Comprehension is defined as "the act or action of grasping with the intellect...the capacity for understanding fully."(The Dictionary) Comprehension is important because it allows us to gain knowledge of new concepts; without comprehension it would be impossible to learn anything.

This discourse will present a literary review of the aforementioned topic so that we can understand comprehension and the effect of comprehension on academic success. The literature presented will seek to display this information in a manner that will inform and enlighten.

Reading comprehension covers a broad range of topics. For the purposes of this literary review we will seek to explain what comprehension is and the effect that fiction and nonfiction works have on comprehension. This review will use a wide range of sources including journals, digests and academic studies.

First we will explore the rudimentary factors involved in reading comprehension such as, phonological memory and word recognition. This will be investigated through the review of a longitudinal study conducted in Finland with school children as participants. We will then survey other factors that effect reading comprehension such as time limitations and silent reading. These reviews will also be investigated through studies conducted at two different Universities with children and adults as participants.

We will then focus on the main topic of the paper, which will focus on comprehending fiction vs. non-fiction works. There will be a review of different literature related to this topic. There will be some background information provided concerning narratology and an international study on the comprehension of fiction and non-fiction works. Then we will explore the strategies used to aid students in comprehending fiction and non-fiction works. This exploration will detail a summary published by ERIC digest in 2000.

The next review of this topic will focus on using narrative works to explain expository subjects. This review will also focus on an article in ERIC digest that discusses the use of fiction text to teach geography. There will be an additional review of literature that discusses the use of narrative text to teach expository subjects. We will then focus on improving comprehension of non-fiction text. Finally we will discuss whether or not fiction or non-fiction is better for comprehension and conclude our literary review with a brief summary of our findings.

Rudimentary Facts About Reading Comprehension

To understand the broad concept of comprehension of fiction and non-fiction works we must first understand the basic factors that lead to good reading comprehension. The following study seeks to explain the basic mechanics of comprehension in young children.

Longitudal Study of Reading Comprehension longitudinal study conducted in Finland using 222 children from preschool through second grade sought to discover what roles phonological memory, phonological awareness, and word recognition play in reading comprehension. There were 100 girls and 122 boys from schools in an urban area involved in the study.

The children involved in the study ranged in ages from 6 to 8 years old; the average being 6 years 9 months. (Dufva, Niemi, and Voeten 2001; 96)

Researchers used three different span tests to conduct the experiment. The word span test presented the children with familiar words and then asked them to repeat the words in the order that they were presented. The sentence span test presented the children with a sentence and asked them to repeat the sentence. The last span was the digit scan test, which was administered using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale For Children. (Dufva, et al.; 97-98)

Phonological Memory

Phonological memory allows a reader to temporarily store the product of decoding before combining the phonemes to make a word. This is particularly important for children who do not have fully developed reading processes because it allows them to store information and interpret that information at a higher level. Previous studies have concluded that phonological memory contributes greatly to an individuals listening and reading comprehension skills. (Dufva, et al.; 92)

The longitudinal study found that phonological memory only plays a small role in phonological awareness amongst first and second graders and thus a small effect on word recognition amongst the same group. The study found that phonological memory did not effect reading comprehension but it did effect listening comprehension specifically at the preschool level.

The study also found that phonological memory in first grade students was directly correlated to word recognition when these students reached second grade. (Dufva, et al.; 91-92)

The Effects of Time Restraints on Reading Comprehension study measuring the effects of time restraints on reading comprehension was performed at Louisiana Technical University. Fifty-two females and 37 males made up the eighty-nine participants in the study. All of the participants were psychology students and college freshmen. All of these students received college credit for participating in the study. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether or not students' reading comprehension would improve under the pressure of time restraints.

Previous studies of similar scenarios, outside the domain of reading comprehension, concluded that time constraints create mindfulness and the participant is more focused and motivated to perform the task at hand and thus the task is completed thoroughly and with better results. (Walczyk, Kelly, Meche, and Braud 1999; 157) Also in a previous study performed by Walczyk the reading comprehension of participants was only measured against extreme time constraints. This experiment found that the reading comprehension of participants was poor when measured against extreme time restraints.

The current study will measure reading comprehension under no time pressure, extreme time pressure and under severe time pressure. The hypothesis is that the students that are under mild time pressure will be more focused than the students under no time pressure and consequently have better reading comprehension. Researchers predict that the students under severe time pressure will become frustrated and have very poor reading comprehension.

This experiment was conducted utilizing computer technology that measured stress and arousal levels and also the speed at which the students read. The actual results of the study found the following,

The best comprehension occurred for those reading under mild time pressure. More importantly, the enhanced comprehension of those in the mild pressure condition occurred more efficiently than those in the no pressure condition. They achieved greater text comprehension per unit time. The large standard deviations of those in the no pressure condition convey that many who read text under no time pressure spent a lot of time reading, perhaps more than was necessary." (Walczyk, et al.; 163)

The study concluded that mild time pressure increases effort and motivation among readers. On the contrary the study found that when severe time pressure is applied readers become overly aroused and have difficulty concentrating, which led to poor performances. (Walczyk, et al.; 164)

Silent Reading and Comprehension

In addition to time pressure, silent reading also has an impact on comprehension. In previous studies researchers found that students that could read fast silently processed more information and in doing so had better reading comprehension that required less effort. Furthermore the study concluded that students that are fast silent readers are more likely to enjoy reading and will continue to read in the future.

Previous studies also found that the number of words that students could read correctly per minute impacted their ability to comprehend. (Freeland, Jackson, McDaniel, Skinner and Smith, 2000; 416)

The participants in this study were three males from rural areas in the mid south ages 16,12, and 13. During this experiment the students were taken to a control room and told to read a passage silently and the researcher timed the readings. The experiment did not contain any time limits. (Freeland et al., 2000)

The study found that repetitious reading increased the silent reading rate and comprehension. The study concluded that accurate fast readers have a higher capacity to understand what they are reading. The study also found that repeated readings allowed the participants' to answer literal or fact question accurately but did not affect the accuracy if inference-based questions. (Freeland et al., 2000)

Definitions of Fiction and Non-Fiction

Fiction, also referred to as narrative text, is defined as text that depicts events, emotions, actions or experiences that individuals in a culture can relate to. Narrative text usually involves, characters with motives, a setting, a problem the main character faces, a plot that seeks to solve the problem, influences the readers emotions, and presents a moral or theme. Non-fiction is generally written to entertain and can contain information that is fictitious or factual. Narrative text is the most researched and understood text of the two. (Dickson, Kameenui, Simmons, 1993, ¶ 43 & 44)

Non-fiction, also referred to as expository text, is defined as text design to deliver information. Examples of non-fiction text would include magazine articles, textbooks, and essays. Expository text structure is…

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