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Comprehension Booster: Summary of Research and Supporting Scientific Evidence

Comprehension Booster is an educational program designed to improve reading comprehension and listening comprehension for children aged 7 – 14.  It provides students with a personalised learning environment in which they can obtain interactive practice in reading (or listening to) and understanding texts of different genres and varying difficulty.  The emphasis in the program is on building the advanced comprehension skills that are required for extracting key information from texts, extending vocabulary, applying inferential thinking and assimilating complex ideas.

Comprehension Booster comprises 140 passages of graded difficulty, 70 of which are fiction passages (narrative texts) and 70 are non-fiction passages (informational texts).  Vocabulary support is provided on request for up to 1800 unusual or difficult words.  Each passage is followed by multiple choice comprehension questions.  The program incorporates digitised speech recordings enabling each passage and questions to be read, listened to, or read while listening.  Comprehension Booster is particularly beneficial for pupils with comprehension difficulties, but the program is suitable for all students in the designated age range, for whom it helps to improve reading speed, vocabulary knowledge, thinking, and memory skills.  The program generates progress charts so that the child’s gains in reading comprehension, vocabulary development and reading speed can be monitored.

Although the development of reading comprehension skills is an integral part of the National Literacy Strategy, national statistics indicate that developing effective reading comprehension remains a huge educational challenge.  In England, SATs results show that 20% of 11-year-olds have poor reading comprehension.  As children get older, the problem gets worse rather than better: by 14 years of age 33% of pupils have unsatisfactory reading comprehension.  National surveys have revealed that over 25% of adults in the UK have serious problems with reading, and in the vast majority of cases the chief difficulty is in understanding what is read.  The occupational opportunities of these individuals are limited to labour-intensive unskilled jobs and they are at high risk of unemployment.  Getting children to read more, especially at home, is one important strategy for rectifying this problem, but this can be very difficult to achieve.  A survey on the reading habits of over 8,000 primary and secondary schoolchildren carried out by the National Literacy Trust found that less than 50% read every day or almost every day, over 30% of children read outside school less than once a week, and 15% rarely read outside school at all.  It can be hard for teachers or parents to make reading a sufficiently attractive pursuit to compete with television, social networking or computer games.  The National Literacy Trust survey revealed that over 90% of children have access to a computer at home, and about 50% of pupils said that the availability of reading games would encourage them to read more.

Research has uncovered a number of key factors that contribute to poor reading comprehension.  Amongst these factors the most important are: lack of fluency, limited vocabulary, weak memory skills, and undeveloped thinking skills (especially inferential thinking).  Comprehension Booster has been specifically designed to address the typical problems of poor comprehenders by providing plenty of enjoyable interactive practice with a wide variety of interesting and challenging texts, opportunities to acquire new vocabulary, to develop working memory, and to learn the thinking skills required for a fluent processing and understanding of complex texts.

An independent review of the effectiveness of Comprehension Booster was carried out by primary teacher John Dabell for the professional education journal Teach Primary and published in 2010.  The review’s author pointed out that “Active reading is one of the most important skills primary children can develop. At its simplest, reading is an interactive process between the reader and the scribbles on the page that results in meaning. The reader uses knowledge, skills, and strategies to determine what that meaning is. Understanding is the raison d’être of reading; and learning to understand is the enjoyable and rewarding part of learning to read. Comprehension is king.”  The review highlights the many ways in which the program can be used in the classroom and at home to help develop good reading comprehension skills.  The reviewer praised the wide collection of enjoyable, well-written and engaging texts contained in the program and dovetailed to children’s ability and age.  He also noted that teaching plans for individuals, groups or the whole class can be set with ease.

For further information on the research behind Comprehension Booster see Chapter 1 of the Comprehension Booster Manual.

Fact Sheet 11 contains a more extensive list of scientific publications that related to the development of the Lucid programs.  

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