Content, format, gender and grade level differences in elementary students' ability to read science materials as measured by the cloze procedure



Present instructional trends in science indicate a need to reexamine a traditional concern in science education: the readability of science textbooks. An area of reading research not well documented is the effect of color, visuals, and page layout on readability of science materials. Using the cloze readability method, the present study explored the relationships between page format, grade level, sex, content, and elementary school students ability to read science material. Significant relationships were found between cloze scores and both grade level and content, and there was a significant interaction effect between grade and sex in favor of older males. No significant relationships could be attributed to page format and sex. In the area of science content, biological materials were most difficult in terms of readability followed by earth science and physical science. Grade level data indicated that grade five materials were more difficult for that level than either grade four or grade six materials were for students at each respective level. In eight of nine cases, the science text materials would be classified at or near the frustration level of readability. The implications for textbook writers and publishers are that science reading materials need to be produced with greater attention to readability and known design principles regarding visual supplements. The implication for teachers is that students need direct instruction in using visual materials to increase their learning from text material. Present visual materials appear to neither help nor hinder the student to gain information from text material.