Predicting and improving reading comprehension: A quantitative multimethod approach (completed)

The PhD project consist of three studies using different methodology, concerning the topic of reading comprehension development in children. The studies end up in three articles where the common denominator are to explore the different language components that contribute in explaining the variation in reading comprehension.

Supervisor: Professor Monica Melby-Lervåg

Study 1:

This Campbell systematic review examines the relationships between skills in preschool and later reading comprehension. The review summarizes evidence from 64 longitudinal studies that have observed these relationships.

Code‐related skills in preschool (e.g., phoneme awareness and letter knowledge) are indirectly related to reading comprehension via word decoding. Linguistic comprehension is directly related to reading comprehension skills. Code‐related skills and linguistic comprehension were strongly related. Moreover, language comprehension was more important for reading comprehension in older readers than in younger readers.


Hjetland, H. N., Brinchmann, E. I., Scherer, R. & Melby-Lervåg, M. (2017). Preschool predictors of later reading comprehension ability: a systematic review. Campbell systematic reviews.  ISSN 1891-1803.  14 . doi: 10.4073/csr.2017.14 Full text in Research Archive.

Study 2:

The two major determinants of reading comprehension are language comprehension and decoding, but prior studies of the development of reading comprehension from an early age show inconsistent results. To clarify these inconsistencies we report a 6-year longitudinal study (starting at Age 4 years) where we control for measurement error and track the development and interrelationships between a range of predictors of reading comprehension (language, decoding, and cognitive skills). We found two main pathways to reading comprehension: a highly stable language comprehension pathway (reflecting variations in vocabulary, listening comprehension, grammar, and verbal working memory) and a less stable code-related pathway (reflecting variations in phoneme awareness, letter knowledge, and rapid automatized naming). Early language comprehension at Age 4 years is strongly related to code-related predictors (phoneme awareness, letter knowledge, and rapid naming), and influences decoding indirectly through these constructs. Early oral language skills predicted initial levels of reading comprehension and its growth between the ages of 7 and 9 years. Strikingly, language comprehension and decoding, together with their interaction and curvilinear effects, explain almost all (99.7%) of the variance in reading comprehension skills at 7 years of age. Our study adds to prior knowledge in several important ways and provides strong support for an elaborated version of the simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986).



Hjetland, H. N., Lervåg, A., Lyster, S.-A. H.Hagtvet, B. E., Hulme, C. & Melby-Lervåg, M. (2019). Pathways to Reading Comprehension: A Longitudinal Study From 4 to 9 Years of Age. Journal of Educational Psychology.  ISSN 0022-0663.  111(5), s 751- 763 . doi: 10.1037/edu0000321


Study 3:

The purpose of this study was to explore the hypothesis that teaching students knowledge of word forms and meanings supports the development of decoding and linguistic comprehension, which are fundamental components of reading comprehension. We examined this hypothesis by investigating the effects of a comprehensive word knowledge intervention on the language and literacy skills of poor readers. The participants included 118 monolingual third- and fourth-grade students from 12 Norwegian elementary schools. A quasi-experimental approach was employed with students in the treatment and control groups matched on grade and reading comprehension level. The intervention was delivered by teachers in small groups for 60 minutes three times per week over a period of 10 weeks. At the end of the intervention, the treatment group showed significantly greater gains than the control group on researcher-created and transfer measures of language and a transfer measure of reading comprehension. There were no statistically significant effects of the intervention on two measures of decoding. The results support the hypothesis that comprehensive word knowledge instruction is effective in improving language abilities underpinning reading comprehension. The utility of this approach for improving decoding abilities remains unclear.


Brinchmann, E.I., Hjetland, H., N., & Lyster, S.-A.H.(2015). Lexical Quality Matters: Effects of Word Knowledge Instruction on the Language and Literacy Skills of Third- and Fourth-Grade Poor Readers. Reading Research Quarterly. Online first. doi: 10.1002/rrq.128





Published Mar. 14, 2014 12:58 PM - Last modified Jan. 30, 2020 10:02 AM