Fourth graders' expository text comprehension: Indicators from NAEP on the role of income, out-of-school reading experiences, and in-school reading experiences
Schugar, Heather Ruetschlin
Dreher, Mariam J
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Researchers have long supported the notion that students' out-of-school and in-school experiences with reading may be related to their overall academic success (Snow, Barnes, Chandler, Goodman, & Hemphill, 1991), and some have argued that these experiences may be particularly important for children from low-income backgrounds (Darling-Hammond, 1995). Others have claimed that fourth grade may be a pivotal year for students from low-income families because this is when the demands of reading and comprehending exposition often become apparent (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990). Given these perspectives, the purpose of my study was to explore the contributions of fourth graders' out-of-school and in-school reading experiences to their expository text comprehension. In addition, I investigated the associations between students' family income and their abilities to comprehend exposition. This study was a secondary analysis of data collected as part of the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), I modeled the associations between fourth graders' expository text comprehension and their out-of-school reading experiences, in-school reading experiences, and their family income using background information from the NAEP student questionnaires and achievement data. At the student level, I found that fourth graders' reported out-of-school reading engagement, and the in-school factors of discussions and cross-curricular reading were all positively associated with their expository text comprehension. However, students' reported frequency of in-school reading-related activities (e.g., writing book reports, making presentations, doing projects) was negatively associated with achievement. Low-income students' out-of-school reading engagement was associated with additional boosts in expository text achievement. Discussions and cross-curricular reading were not associated with low-income students' achievement any differently than it was for fourth graders overall. For low-income students, reading-related activities were associated with even lower expository text achievement than for fourth graders overall. At the school level, being in schools where students reported frequently out-of-school reading engagement and whole-class and small group discussions was associated with higher expository text achievement, while being in schools where students reported frequently engaging in reading-related activities was negatively associated with expository text achievement. School-wide reported frequency of cross-curricular reading was not significantly associated with students' expository text achievement.