Language Use and Literacy Environment as Predictors of Reading Fluency and Text Comprehension among Class Four Pupils in Busia County, Kenya
Poor reading ability is of great educational concern because it has been linked to truancy, low completion rates, and educational wastage. Research among public schools in Kenya has shown failure among pupils to attain basic literacy after three years of school. The purpose of this study was to establish the extent to which language use and literacy environment predict reading fluency and text comprehension among class four pupils in Busia County, Kenya. The objectives of the study were to determine the extent to which language use predicts reading fluency and text comprehension, and literacy environment predicts reading fluency and text comprehension in English. The study examined the interaction effect between language use and literacy environment on reading fluency and text comprehension respectively. Gender differences in text comprehension and reading fluency were investigated. It was hoped that the findings would inform the current understanding of reading achievement among class 4 pupils. The study was informed by David Rumelhart’s schema theory and Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. A correlation research design was adopted. The select population were pupils in class 4 from public primary schools in Busia County, Kenya in 2018. Stratified, simple random and cluster sampling techniques were applied in the study. A sample of 388 pupils and 9 teachers were selected from seven mixed public primary schools. A pilot study using 30 class 4 pupils from a non-participating school helped establish the validity and reliability of the research instruments. Questionnaires, interviews, and observation methods were used to collect data on language use and literacy environment, while a reading test measured pupils’ reading fluency and text comprehension. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis and Quantitative data was analysed using linear regression analysis, two-way ANOVA, and t-tests which tested the respective null hypotheses at α=0.05. There was no statistically significant relationship between language use and reading fluency and between language use and text comprehension. However, the use of English within the school context significantly predicted reading fluency F (4,383) = 4.44, p < 0.05 and text comprehension F (4,387) = 5.40, p < 0.05. Literacy environment significantly predicted reading fluency and text comprehension. There was no significant interaction effect between language use and school literacy environment on reading fluency. A significant interaction effect was present between language use and school literacy environment on text comprehension F (2,388) =10.84, p< 0.05. A significant gender difference in reading fluency was observed but there was no significant gender difference in text comprehension. The study concluded that the use of language of instruction in school and not at home is a significant contributor to reading fluency and text comprehension. For effective reading, the provision of reading resources alone is insufficient, and reading support is important for reading achievement. It was recommended that teachers should model correct English language use and be encouraged to teach reading for text comprehension. A reading program geared towards improving reading among boys was also recommended.