Reading comprehension in seventh-
grade students through Afro-
Colombian literature
Lohorquis Esther Cuello Cuello
Leonardo Enrique Martínez Arredondo
Gustavo Adolfo González Roys
To reference this article / Cómo citar este artículo / Para citar
este artigo: Cuello-Cuello, L. E., Martínez-Arredondo, L. E. y González-
Roys, G. (2023). Reading comprehension in seventh-grade students
through Afro-Colombian literature. Revista UNIMAR, 41(1), 82–103.
Reception date: March 14, 2022
Review date: May 6, 2022
Approval date: July 20, 2022
Reading comprehension means understanding what is read; involves the ability
to extract explicit and implicit information from the text. It is an ability to order
ideas and build relationships within what is written. The study was based on this
epistemic conception, whose objective was to promote reading comprehension
mediated by Mary Grueso’s Afro-Colombian literature, as a didactic strategy with
seventh-grade students. Methodologically, the study was framed in the post-
positivist paradigm, under the pedagogical action research method. A written
test and an observation log were used as instruments. The results indicated that,
with the strategy, the students understood the texts read, and made inferences,
and arguments on a topic, having consistency in the discourse. In the same way,
they managed to increase their communication skills and their reading uency,
in addition to expanding their vocabulary through the use of the dictionary, when
nding unknown terms.
Keywords: reading comprehension; symbolism; Afro-Colombian literature;
cultural identity.
Master in Pedagogy. Professor at Bello Horizonte Educational Institution, Valledupar-Cesar, Colombia.
Doctor in Sciences of Education. Professor. Email: leonardomartinez@unicesar.edu.co
Doctoral student in Education IUAC, Mexico. Research Coordinator of the Master’s program in Pedagogy, Universidad Mariana,
Valledupar, Colombia. Email: ggonzalezr@umariana.edu.co
An article resulting from the research entitled ‘Reading comprehension through Afro-Colombian literature by Mary Grueso in seventh-
grade students of the Bello Horizonte Educational Institution in Valledupar, Cesar’, developed from March 19, 2019, to November 30,
2021, in the Valledupar municipality, Cesar, Colombia.
Comprensión lectora en los estudiantes
de séptimo grado mediante la literatura
La comprensión lectora es entender lo que se lee, involucra la capacidad
para extraer la información explícita e implícita del texto; es una habilidad
para ordenar las ideas y constituir relaciones dentro de lo escrito. Sobre esta
concepción epistémica se fundamentó este estudio, cuyo objetivo fue fomentar
la comprensión lectora mediada por la literatura afrocolombiana de Mary Grueso,
como estrategia didáctica para la comprensión lectora de los estudiantes de
séptimo grado. Metodológicamente se enmarca en el paradigma pospositivista,
bajo el método investigación acción pedagógica. Se utilizó como instrumento
una prueba escrita y una bitácora de observación. Los resultados indicaron que,
con la estrategia, los estudiantes comprendieron los textos leídos, realizaron
inferencias, argumentaciones sobre un tema, teniendo consistencia en el
discurso; de igual forma, se logró aumentar las competencias comunicativas y
la uidez lectora en los estudiantes, además, ampliaron su vocabulario a través
del uso del diccionario, al encontrar términos desconocidos.
Palabras clave: comprensión lectora; simbolismo; literatura afrocolombiana;
identidad cultural.
Compreensão de leitura em alunos da sétima
série através da literatura afro-colombiana
A compreensão da leitura signica entender o que é lido; envolve a capacidade
de extrair informações explícitas e implícitas do texto. É uma capacidade de
ordenar ideias e construir relações dentro do que está escrito. O estudo partiu
dessa concepção epistêmica, cujo objetivo foi promover a compreensão leitora
mediada pela literatura afro-colombiana de Mary Grueso, como estratégia didática
com alunos da sétima série. Metodologicamente, o estudo foi enquadrado no
paradigma pospositivista, sob o método da pesquisa-ação pedagógica. Uma
prova escrita e um diário de observação foram usados como instrumentos. Os
resultados indicaram que, com a estratégia, os alunos compreenderam os textos
lidos, zeram inferências e argumentações sobre um tema, tendo coerência
no discurso. Da mesma forma, conseguiram aumentar suas habilidades de
comunicação e sua uência de leitura, além de ampliar seu vocabulário por meio
do uso do dicionário, ao encontrar termos desconhecidos.
Palavras-chave: compreensão da leitura; simbolismo; literatura afro-
colombiana; identidade cultural.
Reading comprehension in seventh-grade students through Afro-Colombian literature
Lohorquis Esther Cuello Cuello
Leonardo Enrique Martínez Arredondo
Gustavo Adolfo González Roys
1. Introduction
Modern times and the fast pace of life of groups
and today’s society confront children and young
people with dierent problems and challenges,
like in no other time. One of them is the
technological revolution, which allows access to
information without any restrictions, therefore,
processing it or passing it through a lter is
increasingly complex (Villa, 2018):
The current transformations are assisted by
the medium that submerges them in a sea
of symbols that creates a need for them,
sometimes consumerist, of disinterest in
academic life, and why not, a constant
mediocrity about study, school, and in
particular against reading, seen with disdain
and contempt and not as an inexhaustible
source of knowledge and social transformation.
(p. 10)
Now, according to Moreno and Herrera (2017):
In the Colombian education system, there
are various problems; one of them is the
low academic performance of students; one
of the strongest causes is the diculties
they present in terms of reading since it is
something that worries because [it reveals]
that reading habits in Colombia are scarce at
almost all levels of education: initial, basic,
primary, and secondary, vocational media,
even in college. (p. 14)
Hence the importance of wondering about this
situation, as the act goes beyond the strictly
academic since reading is a fundamental
instrument for the personal and social growth of
individuals, which allows them to imagine, think,
and reect critically about their environment, as
Villa (2018) maintains.
Regarding the above, Mera (2012) states:
The reading comprehension of primary
and secondary students in Colombia is
very poor. [He also pointed out] that the
high illiteracy rates in [the country] were
worrying a few decades ago, now the low
reading comprehension rates of primary and
secondary students are the ones that set
o the alarms. A study by the Colombian
Institute for the Evaluation of Higher
Education, ICFES, based on an application
made for grades 5 and 9 in three areas,
including language, in the Saber 2009 tests,
shows the deciencies of Colombian students
in the reading-writing process. (…).
results are poor throughout the country, (...).
Of 7,451 fth-grade students, belonging to
182 schools, only 39% reached a satisfactory
or advanced level in language tests. And, of
the 6,734 ninth-grade students, belonging
to 157 institutions, only 44% reach the
minimum level of reading comprehension.
That is, the students recognize main ideas
and establish some relationships, but very few
are capable of understanding complex texts,
analyzing, inferring, relating implicit and
explicit information in dierent written texts,
and even less, assuming a critical position
and arguing about it. In other words, they
read, but they don’t understand and thus, it
is very dicult to appropriate the knowledge
and be generators of [their learning]. The
consequences are even more serious, points
out Isabel Fernándes (2012), deputy director
of analysis and dissemination of the Icfes: “A
person who does not have good skills to read
and to understand what they read, will have
many diculties both to enter education
superior to be successful in that scenario”, she
explains. These students, added the ocial,
are going to have problems performing
tasks that require innovation, technological
development, and meeting the demands of a
globalized and highly competitive society at
an international level. Worse still, Fernándes
points out, that this reading incapacity aects
the exercise of citizenship, because “to the
extent that you can read, you can understand
the arguments of the other and can solve
conicts conversationally and not by force or
violence, as it happens”. (para. 1-2)
On the other hand, De la Cruz (2012) expresses:
When comparing the results of the Saber
Tests of the students of the capitals of the
departments of the coast, it is found that
Barranquilla is the city that has the best
Reading comprehension in seventh-grade students through Afro-Colombian literature
Lohorquis Esther Cuello Cuello
Leonardo Enrique Martínez Arredondo
Gustavo Adolfo González Roys
performance in language. In Barranquilla,
48% of fth-grade students reach or exceed
the minimum required language skills.
They are followed by Valledupar, with 40%,
Sincelejo with 39%, Cartagena with 38%,
Santa Marta with 37%, Montería with 33%,
and Riohacha with 29%. A similar pattern is
seen in ninth grade. The results of the capitals
of the Caribbean coast are below those of
Bogotá and Bucaramanga. (para. 4)
Especially in the department of Cesar, the results
of the ICFES tests are worrying, since 30% and
26% are low, respectively.
About the concerns of Mera (2012), it can be
deduced that the percentages of the test results
are opposite to what was indicated by Del Valle
(2012), when he indicated that, in recent times,
it has been veried that “reading [...] stimulates
coexistence and integrated social behaviors,
helps to increase vocabulary, encourages
abstract reasoning, enhances creative thinking,
stimulates critical awareness... furthermore, it
is an inexhaustible source of pleasure” (p. 14).
From this perspective, the promotion of reading
is and should be a priority for any educational
system. These two realities should lead teachers
to reect. In this regard, García (2014) assures:
The mediating role that the teacher
exercises in the school is essential to
strengthening reading comprehension in
students. Traditionally, it has been believed
that the problems associated with reading
comprehension particularly concern the
student, since it is pointed out that he or she
does not have reading habits or awareness
of the importance of this communicative
activity. However, very rarely the role and
responsibility of the teacher are questioned
in these diculties evidenced in the students.
(p. 253)
From this point of view, teachers should address
reading comprehension as:
A gradual process, built from the very moment
the reader faces the text and even before,
from the moment he decides to read it and
begins to create expectations and formulate
hypotheses about its content. The process
thus conceived, assumes an active reader,
who is involved with the text in a specic
context to process, and interpret it, to be able
to elaborate a coherent mental representation
of its content, and, in addition, to assume
control and regulation of his own process,
during its execution. (López & Arciniegas,
2004, as cited in García, 2014, p. 254)
About reading comprehension, it is worth
mentioning Cassany (2004), when he states
that, to read, three levels must be taken into
account: literal, inferential, and critical, since,
according to interest, it is easier to extract
explicit and implicit information of a text;
therefore, the Afro-Colombian reading can lead
to self-recognition and the strengthening of
cultural identity.
From this, it can be inferred that, by not
strengthening reading comprehension, the
student may present confusion about the tasks
assigned to him/her, given insucient prior
knowledge to establish relationships between
the contents of the knowledge areas, which could
lead to scarce control of active understanding
and, at the same time, not being able to
guarantee the exercise of raising awareness of
cultural identity.
The foregoing is presented as a great challenge
for the teachers of the course 7-4 of the Bello
Horizonte Educational Institution of Valledupar,
Cesar, the context that the present work
deals with which is evident in the students,
diculties in the comprehension of texts: low
reading uency, syllabication, little ability to
solve implicit and explicit questions of a text,
which prevents them from carrying out a critical
analysis according to the level of study, a fact
that directly aects their school performance
since good reading comprehension is essential
for all areas of study at the baccalaureate level.
It is observed that seventh-grade students do
not know the meaning of most of the vocabulary,
synonyms, antonyms, paronyms, and
homonyms, which indicates a great weakness
that results in an impoverishment of the
comprehension process. Without motivation for
Reading comprehension in seventh-grade students through Afro-Colombian literature
Lohorquis Esther Cuello Cuello
Leonardo Enrique Martínez Arredondo
Gustavo Adolfo González Roys
reading, it is very dicult for a subject to achieve
a cognitive impact. The low motivation observed
in them limits their ability to concentrate and,
therefore, the desire to learn and to know more.
This lack of interest in reading will end up
aecting the results of the students in the
knowledge tests or, in their life projects. In the
classroom, it is common to observe their lack of
interest in reading, perhaps due to a lack of love
or motivation from an early age or because they
have not grown up in a community or family
environment where there is a reading culture.
As a consequence of what has been said, the
following research questions arise: How does Mary
Grueso’s Afro-Colombian literature contribute to
the reading comprehension of seventh-grade
students, fourth course of the Bello Horizonte
Educational Institution in Valledupar, Cesar?
What are the diculties in specic reading
comprehension situations? What will be the
didactic strategies based on this kind of literature
to achieve reading comprehension? How is Mary
Grueso’s Afro-Colombian literature used as a
didactic strategy for reading comprehension?
What are the achievements of the application of
this class of literature in students?
To answer these questions, the general objective
was: Promote reading comprehension through
the Afro-Colombian literature of Mary Grueso as
a didactic strategy for reading comprehension
of seventh-grade students. And, as specic
objectives: 1) Identify diculties in specic
situations of reading comprehension; 2) Design
a didactic strategy for reading comprehension;
3) Implement the didactic strategy based on
the Afro-Colombian literature of Mary Grueso
for reading comprehension; and, nally, 4)
Evaluate the achievements of the application of
the didactic strategy.
In the teaching work, one is exposed to multiple
situations that lead to investigating or inquiring
about particular facts of the classroom, which
allows us to identify, design, and implement new
strategies to improve classroom practice and
enrich the pedagogical and didactic processes
with the students.
Therefore, with the mission of promoting reading
comprehension from its levels, the literal level
is assumed, rst, since it is where “the subject
must have the ability to identify and understand
the information that the text explicitly delivers”
(Actos en la escuela, n.d., para. 15); second,
the inferential comprehension level because it is
when the subject adds his/her “experience and
intuition to the literal information of the text.
It is the level where the reader values what is
exposed in the text, manages to interpret what
the author, without making it explicit, wants to
communicate in writing” (para. 17); third, the
level of critical comprehension, “which implies
that the subject can make a judgment about
the text he is facing. This reading level is based
on the interaction of the subject and his prior
knowledge with the text in question” (para.
18). To continue with these steps, the rich
and diverse Afro-Colombian literature of Mary
Grueso will be taken as a basis, as a way to
strengthen reading comprehension, but also, as
a way to promote and publicize its importance in
Colombian culture.
On the other hand, the research is pertinent
in that it meets the guidelines of the Quality
Directorate for preschool, basic and secondary
education of the Ministry of National Education
(MEN, 2014), where the prole of the teacher is
congured as “a professional of the education
with the capacity to understand, attend to and
resolve the complexity of school situations as
part of their pedagogical work” (p. 13). These
indications give teachers a great responsibility
that forces them to create relevant strategies to
solve student problems.
Consequently, this project seeks to establish
as one of its basic principles “Find meaning
in what is read”, promoting free, informal,
spontaneous reading that awakens the
sensitivity of students to transmit and make
them discover their emotions and impressions.
as readers. A second principle is to promote
reading as a source of knowledge since
reading is food for intelligence, a stimulus
for the exercise of fantasy, an activity that
makes a person grow in all their potential
dimensions that not only help know the world
Reading comprehension in seventh-grade students through Afro-Colombian literature
Lohorquis Esther Cuello Cuello
Leonardo Enrique Martínez Arredondo
Gustavo Adolfo González Roys
but allows for better communication and to
think critically and creatively. (Valencia &
Osorio, 2011, p. 18)
This project will directly benet the seventh-
grade students of the Bello Horizonte Educational
Institution (Cesar), oriented from the importance
of reading comprehension as an essential
mechanism for the acquisition of knowledge,
understanding that the comprehension of a text
is the product of a process regulated by the
reader, in which an interaction occurs between
the information stored in their memory, provided
by the text.
According to what has been indicated, the
research is also justied from the theoretical
point of view, since it is carried out to contribute
to the existing knowledge about reading
comprehension and Afro-Colombian literature,
whose results may be systematized in a proposal
to be incorporated as knowledge to educational
sciences. At the same time, in the practical
eld, the work stands out signicantly because
there is a need to develop concrete strategies
to improve reading comprehension levels at the
performance level of seventh-grade students.
From the methodological perspective of the
inquiry, to achieve the proposed objectives,
typical research techniques of pedagogical
action research were used.
To understand the behavior of the phenomenon
under study, a review of previous research
was carried out. In the international context,
the work of Ojeda (2016) was found, who set
out to determine the inuence of the story as
a didactic strategy in the process of reading
comprehension in students; for this, he relied
on the eld and bibliographic research with
qualitative and quantitative approach. The
author used the survey and the interview as
data collection instruments.
From this research, it was possible to show
that the didactic process to strengthen the
comprehension of written texts is not continuous
and is one of the factors that inuence students
to have diculty reading comprehension. In
addition, it allowed the author to compare
dierent investigations carried out on the subject,
from which he found sucient arguments to
consider the story as a tool that helps to solve
the problem of reading comprehension.
For this reason, this background is pertinent
because its theme and its methodology are
closely related to the present study since the
story is proposed as a strategy to improve
reading comprehension, in addition to the fact
of having used the qualitative methodological
In the national context, the article presented
by Rentería (2018), entitled: The teaching of
reading comprehension through Afro-Chocoano
stories in fth-grade students of elementary
school, was located. Its main objective was:
To improve practical reading comprehension
using Afro-Chocoano stories as a strategy in
the fth grade of primary school. This article
presents the results of qualitative research
that started from the participatory action
approach. The results revealed student
problems in terms of reading comprehension
and the importance of using didactic strategies
(workshops) to strengthen it. (p. 94)
The article contributed to the present
investigation, the importance of understanding
the intention and purposes of the explicit and
implicit of a text, as well as the relevance of
adapting the communicative contexts concerning
everyday situations since the content of Afro-
Colombian literature resembles the daily life of
the students, which favors their understanding.
Finally, at the local level, there is the study
by Baquero (2018), entitled: Didactic design
to potentiate reading comprehension through
dramatic play in grade 4-1 of the Rafael
Valle Meza Educational Institution, mixed
headquarters 3, Valledupar Cesar; its objective
was directed towards the transformation of
teaching practices through the didactic strategy
based on dramatic play:
The research is directed under an action
research design to transform teaching
practices around the understanding of
teaching practice from its actors, its reection,
and transformation, to identify problems in
Reading comprehension in seventh-grade students through Afro-Colombian literature
Lohorquis Esther Cuello Cuello
Leonardo Enrique Martínez Arredondo
Gustavo Adolfo González Roys
the classroom and intervene in them using didactic strategies that eciently meet the needs
found. (p. 12)
After completing the investigation, the author concluded:
Every academic process must be focused on improving educational practice, guided by constant
reection, which does not remain only theorized but transcends teachers and the institution.
It is important to link didactic strategies in the classroom according to the needs, context, and
learning styles of students, leaving aside linear practices that exclude [them] from their learning
process. (p. 13)
The relevance and pertinence of this research revolve around the action research route, similar
to the methodological route of the current work, together with a strategy to strengthen reading
comprehension in basic education students. On the other hand, it manifests the need to address
the teaching practice contextualized to daily life, so that students nd meaning in learning.
For the conguration of the theoretical framework that supports this research, theories related to
reading comprehension, didactic strategy, and Afro-Colombian literature were reviewed, described,
and analyzed. Below is a scheme that systematizes the sequence of theoretical topics (Figure 1).
Figure 1
Relevant topics of the article
104); hence its importance, because reading is
found everywhere where human beings carry
out their activities and, in all areas of life, from
the interpretation of a simple advertisement to
a literary work.
In the educational eld, for Gutiérrez-Braojos
and Salmerón (2012), reading comprehension is
formed through the participation of students in
daily reading practices, to be able to understand
Reading comprehension was given thanks to
the contributions of Santiesteban and Velázquez
(2012), Vaello (2009), Mosquera (2006), and
Pinzas (2012), who consider that this constitutes
one of the main ways for the assimilation of the
experience accumulated by the humanity. In the
words of Santiesteban and Velázquez (2012),
“their teaching contributes to the intellectual
and aective development of the student (p.