Adults' and children's monitoring of story events in the service of comprehension

Catherine M. Bohn-Gettler, David N. Rapp, Paul van DenBroek, Panayiota Kendeou, Mary Jane White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


When reading narratives, adults monitor shifts in time, space, characters, goals, and causation. Shifts in any of these dimensions affect both moment-by-moment reading and memory organization. The extant developmental literature suggests that middle school children have relatively sophisticated understandings of each of these dimensions but does not indicate whether they spontaneously monitor these dimensions during reading experiences. In four experiments, we examined the processing of event shifts by adults and children, using both an explicit verb-clustering task and a reading time task. The results indicate that middle school children's and adults' post-reading memory is organized using these dimensions but that children do not monitor dimensions during moment-by-moment reading in the same manner as adults. These differences were not a function of differentially difficult texts for children and adults, or between-group differences. The findings have implications for models of adult and child text processing and for understanding children's developing narrative comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-1011
Number of pages20
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (T32-HD007151), the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA), and the Center for Cognitive Sciences, University of Minnesota. This work is based on a doctoral dissertation conducted at the University of Minnesota. We thank Jeanne Scheiderer, April Pemeticky, Deborah Shevlin, Mohsina Ahmed, Jennifer Hodgson, Kaitlyn Wahlsten, Jennifer Willcutt, Melinda Mueller, and Sterling Hutchinson for their assistance in conducting this study. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.


  • Comprehension
  • Development
  • Discourse processing
  • Event indexing
  • Narratives
  • Reading
  • Text processing


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