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Texts for Beginning Reading Instruction
Natural vs. contrived language
Seminal research:
Rhodes found children read and comprehend stories with natural language better than stories with contrived language. She asked 13 first grade children to read four stories, two with natural language and two with contrived language. Of the two with natural language, one was a familiar story and one was an unfamiliar story. Of the two with contrived language, one was based on letter-sound correspondences that had been taught and one was based on print words that had been taught.

Rhodes found 3 of the children read all four stories without difficulty. However, among the10 children who had some difficulty, the children read and retold the stories with the natural language better than the stories with the contrived language. On average, the children retold 61% of the unfamiliar story with the natural language, 52% of the story based on letter-sound correspondences, and 24% of the story based on print words.

Rhodes also noted that several times the children laughed and smiled in the process of reading the stories with natural language but only one child had the same reaction (and then only once) in the process of reading a story with contrived language.

    Rhodes, L.K. (1979). Comprehension and predictability: an analysis of beginning reading materials. In New Perspectives on Comprehension, edited by J. C. Harste and R. F. Carey, pp. 100-31. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University School of Education.
Replication research:
  • Bridge, Winograd, and Haley found children learn to recognize print words significantly better when working with texts with natural language than with contrived language. They studied 16 first grade slow learners, 8 with reading instruction using predictable reading materials (texts with familiar, natural language) and 8 with reading instruction using preprimer materials (texts with contrived language).
  • They found that after four weeks of instruction, the children receiving instruction using the predictable reading materials learned significantly more target words (p<.025) and non-target words (p<.025) than the students using the preprimer materials.

    They also found that the children who had been reading the predictable materials reported more positive feelings about reading aloud while the preprimer children reported more negative feelings about reading aloud in the reading group.

      Bridge, C., Winograd, P.N., & Haley, D. (1983). Using predictable materials vs. preprimers to teach beginning sight words. The Reading Teacher, 884-891.

Familiar vs. unfamiliar language
Seminal research:
Ruddell found children comprehend passages with language that is familiar to them better than passages with language that is unfamiliar to them. He asked 131 fourth grade children, to read six passages, 3 with natural language typical of fourth-grades children's spoken language and 3 with natural language not typical of fourth-grades children's spoken language.

Ruddell found children comprehended the passages with language patterns similar to their spoken language significantly better than the passages with language patterns different from their spoken language (p<.01).

    Rhodes, L.K. (1979). Comprehension and predictability: an analysis of beginning reading materials. In New Perspectives on Comprehension, edited by J. C. Harste and R. F. Carey, pp. 100-31. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University School of Education.
Replication research:
  • Tatham replicated Ruddell's study with 163 second grade and 137 fourth grade children.
  • Tatham found the children obtained significantly higher comprehension scores on reading materials with language patterns that occur frequently in their spoken language than on reading materials with language patterns that occur infrequently in their spoken language (p<.001).

      Tatham, S.M. (1970). Reading comprehension of materials written with select oral language patterns: a study at grades two and four. Reading Research Quarterly, 5, 3, 402-426.

(See also Beginning Reading Instruction)
Click on the underlined phrases below to see what professional groups say on texts for beginning reading instruction:
 
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