University of  Sussex MEDIA RELEASE

The Information Office, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RH.

Thursday March 26 1998 Embargo: Thursday 26 March l998


Teachers and researchers find that children's reading progress drops at around seven to nine years. A new training programme at the University of Sussex that uses riddles and jokes to develop a greater awareness of language meaning could help this problem.

The findings will be presented today (Thursday 26 March) by Dr Nicola Yuill, Rebecca Lloyd-Lyons and John Bradwell of the University of Sussex, to the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference, held at the Brighton Centre.

In one study, children who were good at understanding and explaining riddles were superior in reading comprehension. Further studies have examined the benefits of specially designed paper and pencil tasks and a computer software package which present children with ambiguous or otherwise difficult texts, including riddles, jokes and ambiguous stories. Both sets of activities train children who have difficulties in understanding stories to appreciate meaning-based riddles. Training children to understand and make up riddles improves their general reading comprehension on a standardised test.

Dr Yuill highlights the usefulness of riddle training in helping children who are poor readers reflect on the processes on comprehension, and on altnerative meanings of the story. Some children prefer certain tangible aspects of pencil and papers, but computer-mediated training is highly motivating and encourages children to work together in a more diverse range of ways.


For further information contact Sue Yates, Information Officer, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678384, Fax 01273 678335, email

This file produced by USIS - 26th March 1998