Purpose: Proverb comprehension through reading was examined in 42 preadolescents (mean age=12:2 [years:months]) attending a rural public middle school. The study was designed to learn about individual differences with respect to reading, word knowledge, and analogical reasoning skills.
Method: The 42 students were assigned to subgroups of proficient and less proficient readers based on their scores on a school-administered achievement test. Reading tasks were presented to examine their comprehension of unfamiliar concrete (e.g., every bird must hatch its own eggs) and abstract (e.g., gratitude is a heavy burden) proverbs, and their knowledge of nouns contained in the expressions. A nonverbal analogical reasoning task also was administered.
Results: Proverb comprehension was found to be associated with reading proficiency, word knowledge, and analogical reasoning. Although all students were considered by their school to be typical achievers, they demonstrated wide individual differences in their ability to interpret unfamiliar concrete and abstract proverbs. Proficient readers outperformed less proficient readers on comprehension of both types of proverbs, knowledge of abstract nouns contained in proverbs, and analogical reasoning. They did not differ, however, on knowledge of concrete nouns, with both subgroups having mastered those words.
Educational Implications: The results support the view that reading is an important language modality in older children, significantly related to their understanding of words and figurative expressions. Implications for instruction in proverb comprehension as part of a language arts curriculum are offered for speech-language pathologists working collaboratively with classroom teachers. These guidelines reflect the view that multiple factors (i.e., reading, word knowledge, analogical reasoning) promote proverb comprehension in youth.
KEY WORDS: preadolescents, proverbs, figurative language, instruction
Submitted on June 1, 2000
Accepted on October 31, 2000
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