The Effect of Cultural Relevance of a Text on the Comprehension of 4th Graders

by Sabine Wills

Faculty Mentor: Professor Courtney Clayton

This study investigates if the cultural relevance of texts as rated by students has an effect on their comprehension scores of those same texts. The literature suggests that there might be a connection between comprehension to culturally relevant texts, especially in students who are underrepresented in children’s literature in general. This study was performed in a virtual classroom and consisted of reading aloud picture books to fourth graders in a low-income school twice a week over five weeks. After each read aloud, three students were assessed on their perception of the cultural relevance of the book and their comprehension of the text. These students were randomly selected for a purposeful sampling while the rest of the class worked on an ungraded independent activity. The comprehension of the text was assessed using written retellings and the cultural relevance was measured with a Likert scale. Each fourth grader’s responses resulted in different correlations between the cultural relevance and comprehension scores for all the stories. This could be due to several reasons, including the exposure that some of those students have to seeing themselves reflected in children’s literature. This is based on the predictability power of certain questions within the culturally relevant survey. Cultural relevance did show a correlation for students who were historically underrepresented in children’s literature. This shows a need for more diversity in children’s literature to be accessible and inclusive to more students.

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