The Development of Wrap-Up Processes in Text Reading: A Study of Children’s Eye Movements

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Reading comprehension is the product of constructing a coherent mental model of a text. Although some of the processes that are necessary to construct such a mental model are executed incrementally, others are deferred to the end of the clause or sentence, where integration processing is wrapped up before the reader progresses further in the text. In this longitudinal study of 65 German-speaking children across Grades 2, 3, and 4, we investigated the development of wrap-up processes at clause and sentence boundaries by tracking the children’s eye movements while they read age-appropriate texts. Our central finding was that children in Grade 2 showed strong wrap-up effects that then slowly decreased across school grades. Children in Grades 3 and 4 also increasingly used clause and sentence boundaries to initiate regressions and rereading. Finally, children in Grade 2 were shown to be significantly disrupted in their reading at line breaks, which are inherent in continuous text. This disruption decreased as the children progressed to Grades 3 and 4. Overall, our results show that children exhibit an adultlike pattern of wrap-up effects by the time they reach Grade 4. We discuss this developmental trajectory in relation to models of text processing and mechanisms of eye-movement control.

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