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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reading comprehension skills of grade 7 students who are learning English as a second language Lipka, Orly


Reading comprehension is a multi-dimensional process that includes the reader, the text, and factors associated with the activity of reading. Most research and theories of comprehension are based primarily on research conducted with monolingual English speakers (L1). Thus, it is important to investigate the cognitive and linguistic factors that have an influence on reading comprehension of English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) speakers, especially during the higher grades, when there is a shift from “learning to read” to” reading to learn”. This study examined the cognitive aspects of reading comprehension among L1 and ESL speakers in the seventh grade. The performance of both groups was compared and the role of relevant processes, including, memory, phonological awareness, morphological and syntactic awareness, word reading and fluency was assessed. Three comprehension groups were examined: (1) children with poor comprehension in the absence of word reading difficulties, (2) children with poor word reading and poor comprehension, and (3) children with good word reading and comprehension abilities. ESL and the L1 students in grade 7 performed in a similar way on all the reading comprehension measures, word reading and underlying cognitive measures. Only on two language related measures, syntactic awareness and working memory for words, the L1 students performed better than the ESL. Similar prevalence of reading comprehension subgroups was found for ESL and L1 students, with under 2 percent of students classified as reading disabled. The profile of students with poor comprehension was presented as well as profile of students with poor reading skills. Implications for identification of reading comprehension subgroups and for reading comprehension programs were discussed. In addition, the role of the school psychologist in relation to reading comprehension skills was presented.

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