Meaning Construction in Early Oral Reading

By Leger, Paul David; Cameron, Catherine Ann | Journal of Research in Childhood Education, October-December 2013 | Go to article overview

Meaning Construction in Early Oral Reading


Leger, Paul David, Cameron, Catherine Ann, Journal of Research in Childhood Education


The authors' interest in the associations between beginners' reading and writing performance led them to devise an index of children's meaning construction in reading by increasing the specificity of the Reading Miscue Inventory meaning change index to include finer discriminations between superficial and meaning disruptive miscues potentially reflective of beginners' writing errors. Additionally, the authors inserted textual disruptions in a story to examine the children's meaning making under formative textual challenges frequently encountered in emergent literacy engagements. Fifty-one 2nd-grade students participating in a longitudinal early literacy project read a story, the last quarter of which contained meaning disruptions. Participants' adaptations of these latter disruptions were compared with their meaning change miscue scores based on their nondisrupted reading performance. Adaptation scores were related to meaning change scores, suggesting that skill in adaptation to disruptions also reflects meaning construction processes, opening a door for manipulating textual discrepancies in order to document formatively, and thus find avenues for ameliorating, specific reading/writing difficulties.

Keywords: early reading, reading comprehension, miscues, evaluation

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The general aim of this study is to report a classroom-friendly method for exploring students' reading comprehension/meaning construction consistent with such longitudinal investigations focused on emergent writing and reading skill development as those developed by Cameron, Hunt, and Linton (1996), Cameron and Wang (1999), Cameron and Hutchison (2009), Dyson (2003), and Wells (2009). Theoretical accounts of reading comprehension, operationally defined here as the "interactive construction of text meaning" (Brandt, 2009; Farstrup & Samuels, 2002; K. S. Goodman, 1985; Olson & Torrance, 2009; Samuels, 1987; van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983), emphasize the importance of text and reader contributions to a successful reading experience. Making sense of written communication involves lower, automatic processing levels related to the visual encoding of small linguistic units of text (Perfetti, Landi, & Oakhill, 2005) in interaction with higher, memory-dependent processing levels related to knowledge a reader can draw on to build a context of meaning (Conway, 2002).

The Role of Meaning Construction in Emergent Reading

Perfetti et al.'s (2005) model of reading development is based on the multiple processing levels instrumental in developing reading fluency. Basic processes include letter recognition, lexical and semantic access, and word-decoding skills that develop under general constraints of memory systems. Second, fluent reading involves syntactic processing, the integration and linkage of individual word meanings derived from decoding into sentence and text meanings, and develops with experience, as well as being constrained by memory. According to Perfetti et el., a goal of beginning readers should be to make use of context, as they construct text meanings. Yet for reading fluency to develop, beginning readers need skill in context-free decoding so that attention and memory are available for higher levels of syntactic processing. Stanovich (1980, 2003) has similarly posited an interactive-compensatory reading mechanism: Inefficient processing at one level leads to compensation at another level; when decoding skills are inefficient, more reliance on context and syntactic processing is necessary. Beginning readers are thus more dependent on context than fluent readers, and skilled readers show less reliance on context in word recognition than poor readers (Cameron et al., 1996). Thus, such theorists as K. S. Goodman (1985) and Smith (2005) have asserted the critical importance of context usage in emergent reading, citing observational evidence that good beginning readers make more use of context to recognize words. …

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