Children's Comprehension of Narrative Picture Books

CIERA Report #3-012

Alison H. Paris and Scott G. Paris
University of Michigan

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
How can we assess comprehension when children have limited decoding skills?

IThis paper explains the creation and validation of the Narrative Comprehension of Picture Books task (NC task), an assessment of young children's comprehension of wordless picture books. Study 1 explored developmental improvements in the task, as well as relationships to other measures of early reading. 158 K-2 students were administered the NC task. Those children who could read were also given a measure of oral reading and comprehension, while nonreaders received an assessment that measured early literacy skills. There was significant improvement with increasing age on NC task measures. Significant relationships were also found between the NC task and the comprehension measure for readers, and between the NC task and several early literacy skills for nonreaders. Study 2 tested the generalizability of the NC task. A subsample of students (n = 91) received two additional picture books. Inter-task correlations showed that children were consistent on each of the NC task-dependent variables across the three books. The same developmental trends by grade and reading ability were evident on all three versions of the task. The NC task appears to be a valid quantitative measure of young children's comprehension that is sensitive to developmental changes and adaptable to other books. We discuss how narrative comprehension is fundamental to beginning reading and how the NC task may be used for classroom instruction and assessment.

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