Yaghoub Zadeh Zohreh

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    Toward modeling reading comprehension and reading

    fluency in English language learners

    Zohreh Yaghoub Zadeh Fataneh Farnia

    Esther Geva

    Published online: 21 August 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

    Abstract This study investigated the adequacy of an expanded simple view of

    reading (SVR) framework for English language learners (ELLs), using mediation

    modeling approach. The proposed expanded SVR included reading fluency as an

    outcome and phonological awareness and naming speed as predictors. To test the fit

    of the proposed mediation model, longitudinal data from 308 ELLs from different

    linguistic backgrounds were analyzed using structural equation modeling. We

    examined the mediating role of Grade 2 word-level reading skills in the associationbetween Grade 1 phonological awareness, naming speed, and listening compre-

    hension and Grade 3 reading comprehension and reading fluency. The results

    indicated that word-level reading skills fully mediated the association between

    phonological awareness, reading comprehension and reading fluency. Word-level

    reading skills partially mediated the association between naming speed and reading

    fluency. Listening comprehension contributed directly to reading comprehension

    and reading fluency. It appears that reading development in ELLs is better under-

    stood when reading fluency is added to the SVR framework as an outcome and

    naming speed as a building block of SVR. Theoretical aspects of the mediationmodel in relation to ELL reading development are also addressed.

    Z. Yaghoub Zadeh (&)

    Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, 1055 Dunsmuir, Suite 1254,

    Four Bentall Centre, P.O. Box 48448, Vancouver, BC V7X 1A2, Canada

    e-mail: zzadeh@Directions-EPRG.ca

    F. Farnia

    Adolescent Biliteracy Development, Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology,

    The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre/Institute,Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St,

    West Toronto, ON M5S 1V6, Canada

    E. Geva

    Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, The Ontario Institute for Studies

    in Education, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St, West Toronto, ON M5S 1V6, Canada

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    Read Writ (2012) 25:163187

    DOI 10.1007/s11145-010-9252-0

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    Keywords English language learners Reading comprehension

    Reading fluency Simple view of reading Mediation modeling Primary level


    According to the Simple View of Reading (SVR), reading comprehension is a

    product of the joint effect of word-level reading skills (decoding) and linguistic

    comprehension (Hoover & Gough, 1990; Gough & Tunmer, 1986). The SVR

    framework has been the focus of numerous studies that examined its adequacy in

    addressing the complexities of reading comprehension. For example Kirby and

    Savage (2008) maintained that in spite of the broad appeal for SVR framework, it is

    not sufficiently specified. This framework does not address the relationship between

    reading comprehension and reading fluency, nor does it explicitly address the role ofunderlying cognitive processes in reading comprehension. The adequacy of SVR

    framework is not well understood in the context of English Language Learners

    (ELLs), that is, students whose home language is different from English, the societal

    and school language. The present study targeted ELLs, and examined longitudinally

    the adequacy of an expanded mediation SVR framework that includes reading

    fluency as an outcome, word-level reading as a mediator, and cognitive processes as

    predictors of reading fluency and reading comprehension.

    Considering a longitudinal expanded mediation SVR framework

    Very few published studies (e.g., Gottardo & Mueller,2009; Proctor, Carlo, August,

    & Snow,2005) have examined the reading comprehension of ELLs within the SVR

    framework, though parts of the model have been examined in various second

    language (L2) contexts. In particular, there is evidence that word-level reading and

    reading comprehension skills are highly correlated in L2 learners, just as they are in

    monolinguals (Chiappe, Siegel, & Wade-Woolley,2002; Lesaux, Lipka, & Siegel,

    2006; van Gelderen et al., 2004; Verhoeven,2000), and that word reading fluency

    (conceptualized in terms of accuracy and speed) correlates with reading compre-

    hension (e.g., van Gelderen et al., 2004).

    It is also well-documented in the L2 literature that oral language is strongly

    related to literacy outcomes such as reading comprehension and reading fluency

    (e.g., Droop & Verhoeven,2003; Geva & Yaghoub Zadeh, 2006; Lesaux, Rupp, &

    Siegel,2007; Miller et al.,2006; Nakamoto, Lindsey, & Manis,2008; Proctor et al.,

    2005), but weaker in relation to accurate word-level reading skills (for a systematic

    review, see Geva, 2006). Unlike children learning to read in their first language

    (L1), ELLs have, by definition, less developed oral language skills to draw on when

    they read for fluency and comprehension in their L2. Because reading for fluency or

    comprehension may be a more challenging task for ELLs than for their monolingualcounterparts, they may need to rely more heavily on basic cognitive skills such as

    phonological awareness and naming speed that are less dependent on language

    proficiency to support the decoding of the written text. For example, in a study of

    Grade 2 ELLs and monolingual English speaking (EL1) students, Geva and

    164 Z. Yaghoub Zadeh et al.

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    Yaghoub Zadeh (2006) found that phonological awareness, rapid naming, accurate

    word recognition, and oral language proficiency, concurrently predicted reading

    fluency in ELLs, but for EL1s only rapid naming and word recognition predicted

    reading fluency, and the contribution of language proficiency was negligible in this

    group. This study, however, did not examine whether phonological awareness andnaming speed would make additional longitudinal contributions to reading fluency,

    over and above their role in word-level reading skills. In another longitudinal study,

    Lesaux et al. (2007) showed that there were associations between phonological

    awareness, word recognition, and oral language assessed in kindergarten and Grade

    4 reading comprehension.

    Additional nuances concerning the direct or mediated nature of the relations

    between underlying cognitive skills, word reading and reading comprehension, and

    the validity of the SVR framework for L2 learners were reported in a recent study of

    Spanish-speaking ELLs (Gottardo & Mueller,2009). In this two-year, longitudinalstudy, the relations between phonological awareness and language proficiency

    assessed in Grade 1 in childrens L1 (Spanish) and their L2 (English) were used to

    predict word reading accuracy and reading comprehension in Grade 2. The

    researchers tested the SVR using structural equation modeling (SEM) and

    concluded that the SVR framework is indeed a valid framework for understanding

    the English reading comprehension skills of these children. In particular, the results

    showed that oral language skills assessed in Grade 1 and word reading skills

    assessed in Grade 2 contributed to Grade 2 reading comprehension. However, unlike

    Lesaux et al.s (2007) findings, phonological awareness measured in Grade 1 did notcontribute to reading comprehension directly but rather through accurate word

    recognition in Grade 2.

    Proctor et al. (2005) examined the reading comprehension of Grade 4 Spanish-

    speaking ELLs within the SVR framework. Using path analysis, these researchers

    examined concurrently the contribution of two language proficiency measures

    (vocabulary and listening comprehension), word reading fluency, and reading

    comprehension. They reported that Grade 4 vocabulary contributed to reading

    comprehension directly and indirectly through listening comprehension, but that

    Grade 4 word reading fluency had a lesser effect on Grade 4 reading comprehension.

    Evidence from studies involving monolinguals suggests that text reading fluency has

    a stronger relationship with reading comprehension than does word reading fluency.

    It has been argued that text reading fluency plays a more prominent role in reading

    comprehension than word reading fluency because it is a more complex task that

    draws not only on word-level accuracy and speed, but also on the understanding of

    connected discourse (cf. Cutting, Materek, Cole, Levine, & Mahone,2009; Jenkins,

    Fuchs, van den Broek, Espin, & Deno,2003). In light of this evidence coming from

    the L1 literature, it may not be surprising that Proctor et al. (2005) did not find a

    correlation between word reading fluency and oral language skills of ELLs.

    The inconsistent findings concerning the role of reading fluency in L2 reading

    comprehension may be due to different analytical and modelling approaches,

    diversity in sample characteristics, the nature of the reading fluency tasks used,

    different time frames (concurrent or longitudinal), and different research objec-

    tives. Given that the nature of reading changes with schooling and development,

    Mediation model of ELL reading 165

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