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Keywords:

  • Poor comprehenders;
  • reading comprehension;
  • reading development;
  • language impairment

Background:  Poor comprehenders have difficulty comprehending connected text, despite having age-appropriate levels of reading accuracy and fluency. We used a longitudinal design to examine earlier reading and language skills in children identified as poor comprehenders in mid-childhood.

Method:  Two hundred and forty-two children began the study at age 5. Further assessments of language and reading skill were made at 5.5, 6, 7 and 8 years. At age 8, fifteen children met criteria for being a poor comprehender and were compared to 15 control children both concurrently and prospectively.

Results:  Poor comprehenders showed normal reading accuracy and fluency at all ages. Reading comprehension was poor at each time point and, notably, showed minimal increases in raw score between 6 and 8 years. Phonological skills were generally normal throughout, but mild impairments in expressive and receptive language, listening comprehension and grammatical understanding were seen at all ages.

Conclusions:  Children identified as poor comprehenders at 8 years showed the same reading profile throughout earlier development. Their difficulties with the non-phonological aspects of oral language were present at school entry and persisted through childhood, showing that the oral language weaknesses seen in poor comprehenders in mid-childhood are not a simple consequence of their reading comprehension impairment.