Can readability formulae adapt to the changing demographics of the UK school-aged population? A study on reading materials for school-age bilingual readers

Megha Sarin, Maria Garraffa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Due to the increase bilingual population in the UK, it is imperative that reading materials are made accessible for them in and out of school. This study begins by reviewing literature on bilinguals reading comprehension competence, discussing findings and impact on limiting academic achievement. Much literature criticises readability formulae as a tool for grading reading materials. Readability formulae, for example, do not account for differences in reader's dialects and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, this study looks to identify those discrepancies and assess the effectiveness of two well-known readability formulae. It then compares these to a readability formula for bilinguals to identify any consistencies between outcomes, enabling identification of any categories or factors crucial in identifying the reading difficulty of texts for bilinguals not included in well-known readability formulae, specifically for school-aged children.

Method: 20 randomly selected eBooks available for children aged 7-9 y were quantitatively evaluated using three readability formulae: Spache, Flesch-Kincaid and McAlpine EFLAW.

Findings: Based on these results, it is inconclusive if the readability formulae are consistent with each other, as they did not appear to follow the same trend and assessed different criteria. Therefore, the findings suggest no readability formula used in this study can be confidently used on its own to successfully assess the readability of books to deem suitability for bilingual readers as it is paramount that non-text factors need to be incorporated when matching books for students.

Conclusions: This study concludes that a formula or a new set of criteria needs to be created which incorporates the salient factors affecting reading comprehension of bilinguals to best allow educators and authors to select and modify reading materials for this growing population, to increase accessibility academically, enabling best outcomes to be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100141
JournalAmpersand
Volume11
Early online date19 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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