The Contexts of Comprehension: Information
Book Read Alouds and Comprehension Acquisition

CIERA Report #2-009

Laura B. Smolkin, University of Virginia
Carol A. Donovan, University of Alabama

CIERA Inquiry 2: Home and School
How can we promote comprehension acquisition in young children? What instructional activities enhance children's skill at reading and comprehending informational text?

In this paper, Smolkin and Donovan examine the strategies Donovan, then a first-grade teacher, modeled while reading information books aloud in class. Returning to previously tape-recorded read aloud sessions, the authors studied student and teacher responses during the reading of six storybooks and six information books. They considered whether the different genres prompted different types of participant interactions. The authors found that interactive information book read alouds may lead children to engage in more meaning-making efforts than storybooks do.

The interactive information book read alouds provided a context for scaffolding, modeling, and engaging in direct instruction of comprehension. This context also offered opportunities for students to engage interactively in discussions designed to clarify concepts and construct meaning. The authors stress that developing an interactional stance during reading is critical to promoting comprehension acquisition.

Comprehension acquisition, which would precede actual comprehension instruction, is a subconscious process in which children absorb strategies via modeling by adults. This period would begin in preschool and continue into second grade, and could make children more receptive to later formal comprehension instruction. Informational texts are useful choices in these cases because they emphasize construction of concepts.

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