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Elementary Education Online, 8(2), 283-297, 2009.

İlköğretim Online, 8(2), 283-297, 2009. [Online]: http://ilkogretim-online.org.tr

Awareness of reading strategy use and reading comprehension among poor and good readers

Dimitris Anastasiou1                                          Eleni Griva2

ABSTRACT. The present study was designed to explore the primary school students’ awareness of reading strategies and to identify possible differences between poor and good readers, in terms of frequency and efficiency. Furthermore, it aimed at exploring the relation between reading strategy awareness and reading comprehension. Eighteen poor readers and eighteen good readers, aged between 11 and 12, which were selected from a total of 201 sixth grade students, participated in the study. The study was conducted by using retrospective interviews as the basic instrument, in combination with reading test scores. Both groups utilized a variety of cognitive strategies, though it was revealed that poor readers, on the one hand, were less aware of the more sophisticated cognitive strategies, and on the other hand they reported a limited number of metacognitive strategies in comparison with good readers. In addition, both cognitive and metacognitive strategy awareness made a unique contribution to reading comprehension, beyond and above the effects of reading accuracy and reading speed.

Key words: reading comprehension, awareness of cognitive strategies, awareness of metacognitive strategies, poor readers

Reading is a complex process including a combination of perceptual, psycholinguistic and cognitive abilities (Αdams, 1990; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHHD], 2000). It is widely accepted that the three key components of reading are accuracy (involves phonological and orthographic processing), fluency (involves time), and comprehension (NICHHD, 2000). Perfetti & Hogaboam (1975) stressed the importance of “the conceptualization of reading as composed of separable components (p. 461), since it allows the researchers to examine the relationship among the different reading components and the way that they are linked.

The main goal of reading is to extract and construct meaning from the text (Sweet, & Snow, 2002). Reading comprehension is a complex cognitive ability requiring the capacity to integrate text information with the prior knowledge of the reader and resulting in the elaboration of a mental representation (Anderson, & Pearson, 1984; Afflerbach, 1990; Meneghetti, Carretti, & De Beni, 2006). Thus, reading comprehension is an interactive process that takes place between a reader and a text (Rumelhart, 1994); during this interaction, the reader brings variable levels of experiences and skills which include language skills, cognitive resources and world knowledge.  

Ample evidence attests to the important role of word-level processes such as reading decoding and reading fluency to accomplish the higher-order processing involved in reading comprehension (Gough, & Tunmer, 1986; Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986; Perfetti & Hogaboam, 1975; Sindelar, Monda, O’Shea, 1990; Tan, & Nicholson, 1998). However, the modest correlations among these skills varying between 0.3 and 0.6 (Juel, Griffith, & Gough, 1986) leave room to seek other factors above the word- level that contribute to the variability in reading comprehension.

The readers’ involvement in the text is of crucial importance since they should develop, modify and even reflect on all or some of the ideas displayed in the text. Guthrie & Wigfield (1999) highlighted that “a person is unlikely to comprehend a text by accident. If the person is not aware of the text, not attending to it, not choosing to make meaning from it, or not giving cognitive effort to knowledge construction, little comprehension occurs” (p. 199).

In reading, especially in reading comprehension, readers have been found to employ a wide range of strategies, while they are engaged in comprehending  text (Paris, Wasik, & Turner, 1991), since reading comprehension “involves conscious and unconscious use of various strategies, including problem solving strategies to build a model of meaning” (Johnston, 1983).

Strategy is conceived as a deliberate goal-directed action (Pereira-Laird, & Deane, 1997), which can be either conscious or unconscious or automatic. More precisely, reading strategies have been defined as specific, deliberate, goal–directed mental processes or behaviours, which control and

1 Lecturer, University of Western Macedonia, 53100 – Florina, Greece, anastasiou@uowm.gr, Telephone: ++23850-55065

2 Lecturer, University of Western Macedonia, 53100 – Florina, Greece, egriva@uowm.gr, Telephone: ++23850-55027

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