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Children’s Comprehension Task

It is a common belief among teachers that once children learn to decode well, comprehension follows automatically and does not need to be explicitly taught. Research shows us that this sequential model of reading is not only inaccurate, it is also often damaging. When children with little exposure to print encounter text for the first time, they need several cues from adults to begin making sense of it, and even to realize that anything one reads is meant to be understood.
Not only does comprehension need to be taught, there are some good ways and some self-defeating ways of teaching it. Many times, there is a belief among teachers that any text that children are exposed to needs to be explained to them. However, comprehension is a skill. What we need to tell children is not the meaning of a text, but rather how to make meaning from the text. Moreover, comprehension cannot be seen as a blanket phenomenon, but is something that has many dimensions. Different texts lend themselves more or less to each of these dimensions, but there are strategies to enhance each.
In the LiRIL comprehension task, children are told a simple story and are asked some questions aimed at assessing comprehension of different kinds. The difference made to children’s comprehension by use of oral or written discourse is also investigated.