Examining the effectiveness of content literacy instruction on first and second graders’ reading comprehension

Examining the effectiveness of content literacy instruction on first and second graders’ reading comprehension

First Author: Jackie Relyea -- NC State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
James S. Kim; Mary Burkhauser; Ethan Scherer
Keywords: Early intervention, Early Literacy, Comprehension, Knowledge, Grade 1-2
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose:
This randomized controlled trial study was to examine the effectiveness of content literacy intervention on reading comprehension for first- and second-graders and the mediating roles of science and social studies domain knowledge and reading engagement in the treatment effect on reading comprehension.

Method:
Participants were first- (n = 3,063) and second-graders (n = 3,061) from 30 elementary schools randomly assigned to a treatment and control group. The intervention emphasized reading content-rich complex texts, domain-specific vocabulary with concept maps, and collaborative research. Reading comprehension assessment focused on the measure of literal comprehension. Domain knowledge was assessed using the researcher-developed measure of vocabulary knowledge depth. Reading engagement was measured by reading motivation and task orientations.

Results:
Multigroup mediation analysis showed a statistically significant treatment effect on domain knowledge (β = .221 [p < .01] and β = .399 [p < .001] for Grade 1 and 2, respectively) and improvements in domain knowledge significantly predicted reading comprehension (β = .173 [p < .05] and β = .216 [p < .001] for Grade 1 and 2, respectively). Thus, domain knowledge was a significant mediator of the intervention effect on reading comprehension (indirect effects = .038 [p < .05] and .086 [p < .001] for Grade 1 and 2, respectively), whereas reading engagement was not.

Conclusion:
The key intervention features that facilitated young children’s engagement with complex informational texts led to a positive impact on reading comprehension through domain knowledge acquisition. The findings support the theoretical proposition that domain knowledge plays a critical role in reading comprehension.