Reading to learn: An investigation of comic comprehension in Chinese dyslexic children with and without oral language difficulties

  • WONG, Simpson W L (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Dyslexia is a developmental disorder hindering reading acquisition in school-aged children. Past studies on dyslexia have reported an array of deficit markers at the behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, neurological and genetic levels of investigation. Although we have gained a better understanding of the etiologies of dyslexia, three important inter-related research areas have been largely ignored. First, we know very little about the unique cognitive strengths of dyslexic individuals. It was only recently that a handful of research studies have shown the cognitive strengths of some dyslexic children, for example, their superior global visual-spatial skills (von Karolyi, Winner, Gray, & Sherman, 2003). Thus, a more systematic study of the cognitive strengths in dyslexic children is in urgent demand for research and educational purposes. The second neglected research area is the “reading to learn” stage of reading development, a stage following the stage “learning to read” and is of profound importance to knowledge construction. So far, we have had a considerable understanding of the core cognitive-linguistic factors that are important for “learning to read”, but very little is known about the actual performances and related skills in the “reading to learn” stage. Third, the contemporary models of reading were constructed according to text-only reading and the cognition for reading alternative texts (e.g., comics in which text is integrated with non-linguistic visual cues) is not sufficiently described nor explained.

To fill these research gaps, we will recruit two groups of dyslexic children, one of which have co-existing oral language disorders and one does not. Another group of typically developing children of matching age and nonverbal intelligence will also be included. The children will participate in three related studies. In the first study, we will examine the general competency in comic comprehension and the comics reading habits of Chinese dyslexic children. In the second study, we examine the cognitive and memory factors that explain individual variations in comic comprehension. This study will enable us to construct models of comic comprehension based on two theoretical frameworks, namely mental representation model of reading comprehension (Perfetti, Landi, & Oakhill, 2005) and “declarative-procedural-episodic- pictorial” memories. In the third study, we will identify the specific features of comics that enhance reading performance and motivation by comparing several experimental conditions and among the three groups of children, namely a) the Dyslexic-only group, b) the Dyslexia-plus-oral language disorder group, and c) Typically developing children.

By studying comic comprehension, a task that dyslexic children are likely to handle better than text-only reading, we expect to identify the relative cognitive strengths in dyslexic children. The study will potentially provide a more balanced view (strengths and weaknesses equally considered) of the nature of information processing abilities in dyslexic children. The comparison of comics reading performances among the three groups of participants will shed light on the heterogeneity of the cognitive profiles in these children. The resulting cognitive and memory models of comic comprehension will pioneer future work in this area. On the practical side, the results will inspire the design of innovative educational materials with comic features which will foster reading in children with various special learning needs.
Effective start/end date1/01/1431/12/16

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.