Precursors and consequences of reading comprehension difficulties

Project team: Kate Nation, Paul Thompson, Lucy Bowes

In this project, we are interested in understanding why some children struggle with reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is a complex skill that draws upon many aspects of language and cognition: once we have successfully read a word from the page, we need to understand what it means, integrate it within the context of the sentence, update our understanding of the text we are reading, and hold all of this in mind as we progress onward. There may be many different reasons, then, why different children find comprehension difficult. To get at this question, we need to measure those abilities in very large numbers of children, and assess at the broader context in which different strengths and weaknesses occur.

Fortunately, we don’t need to collect all that data ourselves. In this project, we are using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children ( ALSPAC). ALSPAC recruited pregnant mothers into the study in the early 1990s, and continues to follow their offspring as they now approach their 30th birthday. We will be looking at the language and cognitive abilities of ~7000 children who completed a reading assessment at age 9 in attempt to understand some of the heterogeneity in reading comprehension difficulties. We will then be able to look at earlier predictors of reading comprehension difficulties to help us in understanding risk for comprehension problems, and document the consequences for educational and professional outcomes. Finally, we will examine whether comprehension difficulties might be associated with broader social and emotional problems, as is the case for other types of reading and language difficulty.

Emma James
Emma James
Developmental Psychologist