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In the present study, the authors investigated the initial development of the Early Expository Comprehension Assessment (EECA) by examining its reliability. The EECA consists of a compare/ contrast passage, manipulatives to represent the information in the paragraph, and three response tasks (Retelling, Mapping, and Comparing). The authors administered two comparable versions of the measure to 37 children between the ages of 4 and 5 years. They then analyzed the data using a mixed-models analysis of variance for repeated measures, a maximum likelihood estimate of variance components, and a post hoc equivalent-forms (Version A and Version B) reliability test. Results indicated that version and order had no significant effect and that both forms were equivalent, suggesting that the EECA is reliable.
From the time they begin to understand spoken language to the time they leave elementary school, young children are typically exposed to many texts, most of which are narratives in the form of stories or accounts of events. The few expository texts that young children encounter take the form of oral explanations and simple directions. In preschool and kindergarten, expository texts tend to be slowly introduced informally in the classroom. Written exposure to expository texts includes traffic signs, grocery store advertisements, and posted rules, such as "No hitting." Expository texts can also be introduced orally through explanations and directions or during read-aloud sessions, where teachers read and talk about expository texts.
As children enter the primary grades, written expository texts start to appear more often in the classroom. Beginning in the first and second grades, expository text demands increase as children are exposed to content-area texts (i.e., science and math) in the curriculum, informational tradebooks, and children's current events newsletters (Carlisle, 1991; Culatta, Horn, 8: Merritt, 1998). Oral exposure continues during classroom instruction, and children are expected to become increasingly familiar with different ways to organize information and events and to notice relationships among ideas in texts (Carlisle, 1991).
By the time children reach the older elementary school grades, expository texts have become important sources of learning (Alvermann & Moore, 1991). By the third or fourth grades, they encounter expository texts regularly in various classroom experiences and curricular units, and the overall focus of the classroom switches from "learning to read to reading to learn" (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990). The educational system requires children to use and recognize multiple expository text structures, including commonly encountered collections and descriptions (Culatta et al., 1998).
EXPOSITORY TEXT INSTRUCTION
As the descriptions of exposure and expository demands have affirmed, multiple opportunities for exposing children to expository texts exist. At any age level, however, children may not receive sufficient, supported exposure to expository texts for their level of development. In most preschool and early elementary classrooms, children receive minimal instruction with regard to expository texts, but they are still expected to know about them by the third or fourth grades (Alvermann & Moore, 1991; Pearson & Duke, 2002). Many of these children, particularly children with language differences or deficits, will have increasing difficulties in reading and decreasing classroom success because they are ill-prepared for growing demands regarding expository text comprehension.
Educators and researchers are now emphasizing earlier exposure to and instruction with expository texts. One fundamental basis for this emphasis is the concept that earlier attention will help to mitigate the difficulty that children experience with these texts in later grades. Although no research has yet been conducted to support the long-term effects of early instruction, several researchers have found that early exposure to or instruction using expository texts can increase comprehension, memory, and recall of important text information in young children (Duke & Kays, 1998; Moss, 1997; Pappas, 1993). Children require exposure and instruction to develop and maintain their awareness of and competence with these texts (Pappas, 1991). Because expository text comprehension is vital to the learning process, instruction at an earlier age should be explored as a means of improving and facilitating comprehension.
One promising strategy for improving expository text comprehension is awareness or knowledge of text structure (Dickson, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1998). Although various terms have been used to describe a reader's knowledge of text structure--including familiarity, awareness, sensitivity, and recognition--most researchers agree that knowledge of text structure is an important underlying component of expository text comprehension (Dickson et al., 1998; Englert & Thomas, 1987; Meyer, 1975; Meyer & Freedle, 1984; Oakhill & Yuill, 1996; Richgels, McGee, Lomax, & Sheard, 1987; Taylor, 1982). Specifying the structure within expository texts forms the basis for identifying important information and relationships between ideas. Several intervention studies aimed at teaching text structure have illustrated the benefits of structure knowledge for older readers (Armbruster, Anderson, & Ostertag, 1987; Englert & Hiebert, 1984; Henk, 1988; McGee & Richgels, 1985; Meyer, Brandt, & Bluth, 1980; Meyer et al., 2002; Meyer & Poon, 2001; Weaver & Kintsch, 1991). In regards to younger readers, research has indicated that even very young children benefit from the direct teaching of text structure using both types of text: narrative (Baumann & Bergeron, 1993) and expository (Hall, Sabey, & McClellan, 2005; Williams et al., 2005; Williams, Hall, & Lauer, 2004).
This increasing amount of evidence supporting the importance of developing an awareness of expository text structure, along with the understanding of how narrative structure facilitates narrative text comprehension, clearly indicates that more attention needs to be given to the development of effective text-structure strategies for young children. Expository text-structure instruction for preschool-age children will primarily focus on creating knowledge and understanding of concepts (i.e., same and different, time order, problem and solution) to help create the beginnings of mental rhetorical structures that will support later understanding of text structures.
These basic expository text-comprehension skills are critical to children's later success with expository texts. Preschool children who do not obtain adequate preliteracy skills are at risk for future literacy problems (Justice, Invernizzi, & Meier, 2002; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). More specifically, children who have particular difficulty with expository text comprehension may be less prepared to learn new content knowledge or have greater difficulty learning from what they read. In contrast, children who experience success with expository texts will be more motivated to construct meaning and learn new content from what they read. This gap between good readers and poor readers of expository text may reveal itself most profoundly in terms of academic knowledge. In other words, children who can read expository texts will outperform children without those skills in all of the content areas (e.g., science, social studies).
In sum, researchers and educators alike are becoming more aware of the importance of early instruction in expository text for young children. As the focus on expository text instruction develops, so does the need for assessments to evaluate the efficacy of instruction, support children who are at risk for academic difficulties, and monitor individual growth. Early identification of comprehension problems can lead to interventions that will help children attain success (Reese & Cox, 1999). A preschool expository text-comprehension tool can help identify children who may need specific comprehension instruction and/or remediation. The earlier children with difficulties are identified, the sooner an intervention can be implemented. If preschool children at risk for comprehension difficulties are not identified and provided with interventions, they may struggle when they encounter comprehension tasks later in school (Catts, 1997).
NEED FOR EARLY EXPOSITORY ASSESSMENT TOOLS
Assessments designed solely to examine young children's comprehension of expository text structures do not …