The Effects of Literature Based Instruction
on Comprehension Achievement
Jane Q. Student
Southeastern Louisiana University
The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of
literature-based instruction on the comprehension achievement of
sixth grade reading students. The scores of the reading
comprehension subtest from the IOWA Test of Basic Skills will be
used as a pretest. The experimental group of this study will use
literature-based instruction in their reading class for one year
while the control group will use traditional basal instruction.
The scores of the current year’s reading comprehension subtest
from the IOWA Test of Basic Skills will be used to obtain posttest
scores for both the experimental and control groups.
The Effects of Literature Based Instruction on Comprehension
The purpose of this study is to examine whether the use of
literature-based instruction will affect student comprehension
achievement in a middle school reading classroom.
Review of Related Literature
Are there differences in comprehension when students are exposed
to literature-based instruction instead of traditional basal based
instruction? Do the differences exist for all readers? Do the
differences exist in all areas of learning? What are the best ways
to incorporate literature into the classroom? As educators are
looking for ways to provide students with more realistic learning
experiences we look for answers to these questions more and more.
Gipe et. al. (1997) sees literacy education moving toward
literature-based instruction. Children’s literature has even been
used to enhance the development of at risk students.
Literature-based instruction is not limited to the reading
classroom. Guthrie et. al. (1996) found that students gained in
comprehending informational text as well as several other higher
order thinking skills when basal and science textbooks were
replaced with trade books. According to Edgington (1998)
children’s literature can entertain the reader while providing
information. Edgington argues that while social studies textbooks
are useful they are not as detailed, passionate, or interesting as
literature. However, as Edgington states, research validates
literature as a possible supplement to the social studies
textbook, not a replacement. In using literature across the
curriculum, students see that some of the same topics they are
studying are explored as subject matter for novels and short
Strategies and activities that are most effective with
literature-based instruction should be determined Gipe et al
(1997). This means that the most effective use of literature in
the classroom setting should be considered before it is
incorporated into instruction. Fielding and Pierson (1994)
believes that through repeated situations of students reading and
discussing whole texts with teachers and peers they will be able
internalize effective comprehension strategies.
Harmon (1998) points out that literature-based reading programs
can be fruitful grounds for vocabulary teaching and learning at
the middle school level. Students that were engaged in a variety
of literary task focused on critical reading and problem solving.
Teachers demonstrated how a literature-based program could teach
vocabulary through overlapping components of instructional
learning episodes. This would mean that students would engage in
activities where they would read both self-selected and teacher
selected material and share through peer group and whole-class
interactions. Rather than learning to read words from list
children are taught to read words in context. The use of
literature in vocabulary instruction shows that the student is
learning vocabulary through contextual experiences.
McClain (1985) stated that traditional literature is rich in
vocabulary, language development, cultural traditions and
presentation of human similarities. Traditional literature allows
the critical reader to read between the lines and maintain an
alert and questioning mind. This helps when students are reading
text for the purpose of acquiring content knowledge. Kuntz (1994)
stated that in using literature books, instead of programmed basal
readers, students are given the choice of what they are to read.
Through choice the student is allowed to claim ownership over his
or her own learning.
Walmsley and Walp (1990) state that genuine reading involves
experiencing real literature on a variety of levels. They endorse
a wide variety of reading materials for elementary students.
Inclusion of children’s literature as an integral part of reading
instruction has a high probability of benefiting learners in their
oral and written language acquisition Gipe et. al. (1997).
Gipe et. al. (1997) states that reports on the effects of
literature-based instruction in general document success. However,
this does not constitute the use of only a literature-based method
of instruction. I believe that finding a middle ground, a place
where basal and literature based instruction are used together
will help to enhance the learning experience of the students.
It is hypothesized that students using novels to study literary
elements will score statistically significantly higher than those
students not using novels with respect to reading comprehension.
For the purpose of this study, the students involved will be both
females and males enrolled in a regular education, sixth grade
reading class in a public school. A preset group of two classes of
thirty students will use young adult literature (novels), while
the other two classes will utilize a basal reader. The pretest and
posttest scores for each class will come from the reading
comprehension portion of the IOWA Basic Skills test.
study will be a quasi-experimental study in which the independent
variable will be the use of novels. The non-equivalent pretest
posttest control group design will be used to compare the reading
comprehension achievement of a group that will use novels with a
control group that will use basal readers. The dependent variable
is reading comprehension achievement as measured by Reading
Comprehension subtest of the IOWA Test of Basic Skills scores from
the previous year and the current year’s IOWA test scores.
Four sixth grade regular education classes at Westside Junior High
will comprise the convenience sample for this study. The students
will be heterogeneously grouped and the majority of the students
will be of middle socioeconomic status. Two predetermined classes
consisting of 30 students each will use novels and the other two
predetermined classes will use basal readers. The same instructor
will teach each class. This study may be generalized to all
students at Westside Junior High.
Reading Comprehension subtest of the IOWA Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
will be used as both a pretest and posttest for the purpose of
this study. The purpose of this test is to measure the students’
comprehension achievement on passages created by the authors of
the IOWA Test of Basic Skills Test. The test consists of 30
multiple-choice questions. This tests measure of stability has
been shown to be .80. The authors of this test relied on expert
judgment to develop the validity of content. Sufficient
reliability and validity show this test to be a useful measure of
Four intact regular education sixth grade-reading classes at
Westside Junior High will be used to conduct this study. One group
consisting of two classes of 30 students will be designated, as
the experimental group while the other group, also consisting of
two classes, will be the control group. The experimental group
will utilize young adult and children’s literature throughout the
school year for reading instruction. The control group will use
the Houghton Mifflin sixth grade reading series throughout the
year for reading instruction. Pretest scores for this study will
be collected from the scores from the previous years IOWA Test of
Basic Skills reading comprehension subtest. Posttest scores will
be derived from the current years IOWA Test of Basic Skills
reading comprehension subtest.
For the purpose of this study an ANCOVA statistical test will be
used to analyze the data.
Edgington, W. D.
(1998). The use of children’s literature in middle school social
studies: What research does and does not show [Electronic
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Fielding, L. G., &
Pearson, P. D. (1994). Reading comprehension: What works
[Electronic version]. Educational Leadership, 51, 62-68.
Gipe, J. P., Richards,
J. C., & Barnitz, J. G. (1993, December). Literacy Growth of
Urban “At-Risk” Children taught by university students using
literature-based instruction. Paper presented at the annual
meeting of the National Reading Conference, Charleston, SC. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED364832)
Guthrie, J. T., Van
Meter, P., McCann, A. D., Wigfield, A., Bennett, L., Poundstone,
C. C., et al. (1996). Growth of literacy engagement: Changes in
motivations and strategies during concept-oriented reading
instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 31, 306-332.
Harmon, J. M. (1998).
Vocabulary teaching and learning in a seventh-grade
literature-based classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult
Literacy, 41, 518-529.
Kunze, C. R. (1994).
Improving the reading comprehension skills of unmotivated fifth
grade students through literature-based instruction. Fort
Lauderdale, FL: Nova University. (ERIC Document Reproduction
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McClain, A. B. (1985).
Using traditional literature to teach critical reading skills.
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Far West Regional
Conference of the International Reading Association. Portland, OR.
(ERIC Document Reproduction No. ED260381)
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