Date of Award

12-2001

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Literacy Education

Advisor

Janice V. Kristo

Second Committee Member

Rosemary A. Bamford

Third Committee Member

Theodore Coladarci

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate a selection of children's historical nonfiction literature for evidence of coherence. Although research has been conducted on coherence of textbook material and its influences on comprehension there has been limited study on coherence in children's nonfiction literature. Generally, textual coherence has been seen as critical in the comprehensibility of content area textbooks because it concerns the unity of connections among ideas and information. Disciplinary coherence concerns the extent to which authors of historical text show readers how historians think and write. Since young readers are apprentices in learning historical content and conventions of historical thinking, evidence of disciplinary coherence is significant in nonfiction literature for young readers. The sample of the study contained 32 books published between 1989 and 2000 ranging in length from less than 90 pages to more than 150 pages. Content analysis was the quantitative research technique used to measure 84 variables of textual and disciplinary coherence in three passages of each book, as proportions of the total number of words for each book. Reliability analyses and an examination of 750 correlations showed the extent to which variables were related in the books. Three important findings emerged from the study that should be considered in the selection and use of children's historical nonfiction literature in classrooms. First, characteristics of coherence are significantly related together in high quality nonfiction literature. Second, shorter books have a higher proportion of textual coherence than longer books as measured in three passages. Third, presence of the author is related to characteristics of coherence throughout the books. The findings show that nonfiction literature offers students content that researchers have found textbooks lack. Both younger and older students have the opportunity to learn the conventions of historical thinking as they learn content through nonfiction literature. Further, the children's literature, represented in the Orbis Pictus list, shows students that authors select, interpret, and question information, and give other interpretations. The implications of the study for teaching history, teacher preparation in content and literacy, school practices, children's librarians, and publishers of children's nonfiction are discussed.

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