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MSU Literacy Colloquy


  • Dr. Laura Tortorelli

    Tuesday, February 23rd

    11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

    Erickson Room: 133F

    Beyond Readability: What Makes Complex Text Difficult for Young Readers?

    The Common Core State Standards call for increased text complexity beginning in second grade. Text complexity is usually measured with readability statistics, including measures of word length, word frequency, and/or sentence length. Theoretical research on text complexity, however, indicates that measures of overall discourse structure, including measures of genre and cohesion, may be equally important for understanding how children process texts. New technologies like the Coh-Metrix Text Easability Assessor (McNamara, Louwerse, Cai, & Graesser, 2005) make it possible to automatically evaluate texts and obtain quantitative measures of genre and cohesion. My research explores the relationships between measures of text complexity at the word, sentence, and discourse levels and reading fluency for children in the early elementary grades. Using the RAND model of reading comprehension as a theoretical framework, my work highlights how reader, text and task factors interact in an iterative process.

    Laura S. Tortorelli is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Grades Reading in the Teacher Education department. She graduated with her Ph.D. in Reading Education from the University of Virginia in 2015. Before going back to graduate school, Laura worked as a reading teacher and reading curriculum developer. Her first teaching job was with the JET program in Hokkaido, Japan. Lauras research interests include text complexity, reading fluency, alphabet knowledge, and early writing.

    2015-2016 Literacy Colloquy Presentation