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versión On-line ISSN 1668-7027


MANRIQUE, María Soledad  y  BORZONE, Ana María. Comprehension of stories as a problem solving process in 5 - year - old children from low income families. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2010, vol.27, n.2, pp.209-228. ISSN 1668-7027.

Text comprehension can be considered a problem solving process more than an automatic one for young children (Kinstch, 1988, 1998).This study aims to identify the comprehension difficulties faced by 4 and 5-year-old children from low-income populations during story reading at kindergarten, in Buenos Aires (Argentina). The analysis of teacher / student interaction in 26 story-reading settings in nine different classrooms was carried out using the comparative constant method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1991), a qualitative method that allowed to inductively categorize these difficulties. According to this analysis, in reading situations at kindergarten, children form a mental representation of the text read to them through various cognitive processes: knowledge activation, inference making, processing of causal chains, the psychological level and knowledge of the narrative squema. These processes are based on different sources of information: the illustrations, the text, and the interactive process around the text. The difficulties observed are originated in the relationship between the children abilities and each of the sources. With regard to the difficulties originated in the pictures, the analysis showed that sometimes the illustrations do not represent the principal aspects of the plot, but they contradict the text or the title of the story. In other situations, the illustrations represent a part of the text that has not been read yet or they provide many details that distract the children, being an obstacle to the comprehension process. These observations are in agreement with those of Zazanis (1991) who has pointed out the difficulty inherent in coordinating information presented both in verbal and pictorial modalities. As regards to the text, the analysis showed that the difficulties for the comprehension processes in children arise when complex or abstract vocabulary is not understood, either because it has not been explained, or because the explanation provided by the teacher is not linked to the text. Metaphors have also proved to require a complex processing since they may activate world - knowledge that is not connected to the text, with the difficulty of inhibition observed in small children (Gernsbacher, 1990, 1997). The narrative structure is part of the text features that represents a difficulty for children who have not yet developed the operative control of the narrative squema (Stein & Glenn, 1982). Another difficulty encountered by young children is the processing of causal chains that provide coherence to any text (Rosemberg, 1994). In addition, the event causal relations may belong to the psychological level of narrative. In agreement with other studies (Fivush & Haden, 1997; Trabasso & Rodkin, 1994), it has been observed that children rarely refer to this level and they have trouble inferring psychological causes (Thompson & Myers, 1985). When teachers do not take into account these difficulties in children´s interventions, because they focus on details of the text or the interactive process around the text lacks contingency or synchronicity, they cannot foster the formation of a mental representation of the text. Thus, children may form incomplete or incoherent mental representations that are not based on the textual cues. On the contrary, when teachers understand comprehension as a problem solving process, they can monitor it step by step, constructing the meaning of the text through the interaction with the children in a process of shared cognition (Borzone & Rosemberg, 1994; Manrique, 2009; Manrique & Borzone, 2007; Wertsch, 1998; Whitehurst & Valdez-Menchaca, 1992).

Palabras clave : Comprehension difficulties; Children; Story reading; Kindergarten.

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