Factors contributing to specific reading comprehension difficulties in Chinese

Factors contributing to specific reading comprehension difficulties in Chinese

First Author: Ching Yan Kwok -- The University of Hong Kong
Keywords: Reading comprehension, Comprehension difficulty, Reading fluency, Linguistic Comprehension, Chinese children
Abstract / Summary: 

Research on children with specific reading comprehension difficulties (S-RCD), who exhibit reading comprehension difficulties despite intact word reading ability, in Chinese is relatively scarce. Given differences in scripts and language, it is expected that the profile of Chinese children with S-RCD may be different from those using alphabetic languages. This study aimed to examine reading- and linguistics-related contributors to S-RCD in Chinese.

223 Chinese children from grade 1 to 3 participated in this study. Standardized and experimental reading comprehension tests, together with a battery of measures involving decoding skills, linguistic comprehension skills, fluency, higher-order reading skills and working memory, were administered. Children were classified as readers with S-RCD and average comprehenders based on their performance on reading comprehension and word reading using the regression techniques proposed by previous studies (Fong & Ho, 2019; Tong, Deacon, Kirby, Cain, & Parrila, 2011).

Children with S-RCD performed significantly worse in reading fluency than average readers. Among the tasks measuring linguistic comprehension skills and higher-order reading skills, children with S-RCD performed relatively poorer on tasks associated with discourse-level skills than average readers, especially on the sentence order task. The two groups of children did not differ in oral vocabulary knowledge or syntactic skills.

Unlike children using alphabetic languages, Chinese children with S-RCD did not demonstrate oral language weakness at word or syntax level; rather, they exhibited weakness in reading fluency and linguistic comprehension skills at discourse level. These findings will inform development of effective identification and intervention programs for Chinese children with S-RCD.