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Childrens literature has been acknowledged as appropriate and engaging materials for

teaching language to young learners. The used of narrative texts have found to be effective in

building language and comprehension skills. A massive volume of childrens literature, however,

is produced for the native speaker, thus leads to cultural references and settings that may be

unfamiliar to non-native speakers. Viewed from the Schema Theory perspective, which holds

that comprehension of texts is made possible through existing mental frameworks, the lacks of

familiarity with the culture upon which a story is situated may result in comprehension being

more difficult to achieve.

In response to this issue, this study will explore the extent to which culturally-acquires

prior knowledge affects young ESL learners comprehension of narrative texts situated in native

and non-native cultures. 30 Year 4 pupils from a primary school in Seri Kembangan, Selangor,

Malaysia read two narrative texts situated in in native and non-native cultures (Malay Malaysian

and British English). Participants level of comprehension for each text will be measured through

written comprehension texts and verbal story retelling tasks. Transcripts from the story retelling

task will be analysed for inaccuracies in comprehension. The inaccuracies will then categorized

and checked for possible causes. Finally, to check the value of story retelling task as a

comprehension assessment tool, scores from the story retelling task and scores from the

comprehension tests will be checked for correlations.


It is believed that the readers background knowledge (schema) interacts with the content of the

passage they are reading. So decoding a message more accurately needs the activation of

vocabulary and structure knowledge as well as background knowledge. The aim of the present

study was to determine whether schema activation has any effect on reading comprehension of

culturally-loaded texts. The subjects were 76 sophomore students divided into control and

experimental groups. The students schema in experimental group was activated through pre-

reading activities while the participants in control group received no treatment. The results of the

t-test showed a significant difference between the mean scores of pre-test and post-test of the

experimental group before and after schema activation. Correlation analysis also revealed that as

participants received more background knowledge, their comprehension of cultural texts was

improved. The study finally explored some pedagogical implications.


This research investigates the effects of culturally specific prior knowledge on

Taiwanese EFL senior high school students' English reading comprehension, utilizing a retelling

technique. Fourteen participants were selected from the volunteer pool of 97 students from a

senior high school in Taipei, Taiwan. An informal reading inventory test was used to identify

those with English reading ability equivalent to the grade seven instructional level. Each

participant's prior knowledge of the focus topics (Chinese and non-Chinese) was determined

through an individual, self-report interview. After the initial interview, twelve separate meetings

were arranged for each participant to orally report hisher comprehension of the assigned

passages, using the retelling technique. Chinese and non-Chinese topics were evenly balanced in

the reading passage provided to each participant. Finally, a second interview was conducted to

allow each participant to reflect on hisher experience of the retelling process. Every interview

and retelling meeting was tape-recorded and transcribed for intensive analysis (a total of 28

interview and 168 retelling transcripts).The analysis confirms the positive influence of the

participants' culturally specific prior knowledge on their reading comprehension. The results of

the quantitative analysis indicate that the retelling of the Chinese topic passages was significantly

different from those with non-Chinese topics. Most Taiwanese students produced more thought

units for the passages with Chinese topics than for those with non-Chinese topics. The

participants retold almost the same amount of synthesizing information for the passages with

Chinese and non-Chinese topics. However, most students retold more analyzing and inferring

information for the passages with Chinese topics than for those with non-Chinese topics. The

results also make evident that most participants made fewer errors in retelling the passages with

Chinese topics than in retelling those with non-Chinese topics. Qualitative data were analyzed
and interpreted to further explore the relationship of culturally specific prior knowledge and EFL

students' English reading comprehension. The findings of the exploration confirm and elaborate

the results of the quantitative analysis. In this study, culturally specific prior knowledge has been

demonstrated to be pivotal in enabling Taiwanese senior high school students to make a more

comprehensive understanding of English passages. The instructional implications are discussed.

This study contributes to the theoretical foundations of reading comprehension theory in the EFL

context and introduces retelling as a research tool in that context