Oral Language Predictors of Reading Comprehension among Elementary School Children: Does Developmental Language Impairment Make a Difference?

  • Author / Creator
    Skoczylas, Melissa J
  • Research comparing reading comprehension tests has consistently found that these tests, all designed to measure the construct of reading comprehension, tap various and frequently different component skills. A number of studies have examined the relationship of oral language skills to reading comprehension test scores and have found significant predictive ability of some language skills. The studies examining these tests have sometimes included children with language impairment in their participant group, but have not investigated whether the pattern of results might differ for children with and without language impairment. The current study extends this body of research in two ways: 1) the ability of language skills to predict reading comprehension test scores was examined in relation to language group status (typical development and language impairment); 2) predictors were examined for two reading comprehension tests, one of which had not been examined previously. The two tests included in this study were the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement—2nd Edition (KTEA-II) (not previously studied) and the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test—Revised/Norms Update (WRMTR). The KTEA-II includes passages of increasing length followed by question-response tasks. The WRMTR includes short passages with one word missing. The task is to provide the missing word (a cloze task). Participants were 54 students in grades 4 through 6 (M age 10.08, SD .63, range 9.08-11.5). Thirty students had typical language development; 24 had language impairment. Oral language measures included receptive and expressive measures of vocabulary, morpho-syntax, and narrative language. Other variables tested included decoding, working memory and nonverbal IQ. These variables were not oral language skills and were identified as potential predictors in the literature. Through a series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses, it was found that the two reading comprehension tests compared tapped different language skills, although vocabulary and decoding were strong predictors of both tests. In addition to vocabulary and decoding, KTEA-II scores were predicted by narrative skills and WRMTR scores were predicted by syntax. The second contribution of this study was the comparison of results for children with and without developmental language impairment. A stratified analysis of the data revealed that the pattern of predictors noted above was only true for children with typically developing language. For children with LI, only decoding and vocabulary were predictive. This result leads to a practice recommendation that reading test results for children with LI be supported by detailed language assessment to support selection of therapy goals. The methodology of this study also made a contribution to research comparing reading comprehension tests. Language sample analysis was included in the measurements of oral language skills, an approach not previously used in this type of research. The predictive value of receptive and expressive language measures was compared via multiple regression. The results showed that both modes could provide useful results, with a large proportion of shared variance between receptive and expressive measures. It is suggested that the Simple View of Reading, which views reading as the product of decoding plus oral language comprehension, be slightly extended so that the “comprehension” construct be understood as “oral language skills” to more clearly incorporate expressive language skills in the context of reading comprehension.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Schneider, Phyllis (Communication Sciences and Disorders)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • McInnes, Alison (Educational Psychology)
    • Hayward, Denyse (Educational Psychology)
    • Varhnagen, Connie (Psychology)
    • Nelson, Nickola (Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Ph.D., Western Michigan University)