As interest and concern rise in U.S. educational circles around the reading achievement of English language learners (ELLs) and struggling readers, researchers and practitioners alike are calling for the increased use of technology as a means to decrease achievement gaps in reading (Jimenez, 2003; Strangman & Dalton, 2005). In this article, we report results from a 4-week study of the English reading comprehension of struggling readers, including Spanish-speaking ELLs. Thirty 4th-grade students read several narrative and informational hypertexts that provided embedded vocabulary and comprehension strategy supports, along with text-to-speech read-aloud functionality. Correlation analyses of pre-post standardized reading vocabulary gain scores revealed that vocabulary gain was associated, although not significantly, with the frequency of access of hyperlinked glossary items throughout the intervention, and that lower pretest vocabulary knowledge was associated with positive vocabulary gains. A similar pattern was detected for comprehension gains, which were significantly associated with the frequency of access of coaching avatars that provided support around the productive use of reading comprehension strategies. The results reported here suggest that struggling readers and Spanish-speaking ELLs made use of the digitally embedded features in such a way as to promote both learning novel lexical items and effectively applying reading comprehension strategies.
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