Advertisement

Reading and Writing

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 327–360 | Cite as

Phonological awareness, verbal working memory and the acquisition of literacy

  • Mary Rohl
  • Chris Pratt
Article

Abstract

This paper describes a 2-year longitudinal study of 76 initially prereading children. The study examined the relationships between phonological awareness (measured by tests of onset and rime, phonemic segmentation and phoneme deletion), verbal working memory and the development of reading and spelling. Factor analyses showed that the verbal working memory tests which were administered loaded on two distinct but highly related factors, the first of which,simple repetition, involved the repetition of verbal items exactly as spoken by the experimenter, whereas the second,backwards repetition, involved repetition of items in reverse order. Factor analyses also showed that, whist the phonological awareness variables consistently loaded on the backwards repetition factor at the beginning and end of Grade 1, by Grade 2 the phonological awareness variables loaded on a separate factor which also included sentence repetition. Results of multiple regression analyses, with reading and spelling as a compound criterion variable, indicated that phonological awareness consistently predicted later reading and spelling even when both simple and backwards repetition were controlled. In contrast, verbal working memory did not consistently predict reading and spelling across testing times. Whilst there was some indication that verbal working memory, especially backwards repetition, measured during Grade 1 did predict reading and spelling in Grade 2, these effects were no longer evident when all three phonological variables were controlled. Nevertheless, with 4 individual reading and 2 individual spelling measures as the criterion variables, it was shown that phonological awareness was not quite such a consistent predictor of reading and spelling: it was most highly related to reading pseudowords and spelling real words; but it was not so highly related to spelling pseudowords, apparently because the processing demands of the task for the young children in the study were extremely high. Given the importance of verbal working memory for the completion of phonological awareness, reading and spelling tasks, in particular for spelling pseudowords, the findings are interpreted as providing some support for a theoretical position which posits that both phonological awareness and verbal working memory contribute to the early stages of literacy acquisition. Whilst the findings suggest some support for a general underlying phonological ability, there is also evidence that, as children learn to read and write, verbal working memory and phonological awareness become more differentiated.

Key words

Phonological awareness Verbal working memory Literacy 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adams, M. J. (1990).Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, M. J. & Bruck, M. (1993). Word recognition: The interface of educational policies and scientific research,Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5: 113–139.Google Scholar
  3. Ball, E. W. & Blachman, B. A. (1991). Does phoneme segmentation training in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition and developmental spelling?,Reading Research Quarterly 26: 49–66.Google Scholar
  4. Baddeley, A. (1986).Working Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Barnard, D. P. & De Gracie, J. (1976). Vocabulary analysis of new primary reading series,The Reading Teacher 30: 177–180.Google Scholar
  6. Bisanz, G. L., Das, J. P. & Mancini, G. (1984). Children's memory for phonetically confusable and nonconfusable letters: Changes with age and reading ability,Child Development 55: 1845–1854.Google Scholar
  7. Bowey, J. A. (1986). Syntactic awareness in relation to reading skill and ongoing reading comprehension monitoring,Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 41: 282–299.Google Scholar
  8. Bowey, J. A., Cain, M. T. & Ryan, S. M. (1992). A reading-level design study of phonological skills underlying fourth-grade children's word reading difficulties,Child Development 63: 999–1011.Google Scholar
  9. Bowey, J. A. & Francis, J. (1991). Phonological analysis as a function of age and exposure to reading instruction,Applied Psycholinguistics 12: 89–118.Google Scholar
  10. Bradley, L. (1988a). Making connections in learning to read and spell.Applied Cognitive Psychology 2: 3–18.Google Scholar
  11. Bradley, L. (1988b). Rhyme recognition and reading and spelling in young children. In: R. L. Masland & M. R. Masland (eds.),Pre-school prevention of reading failure. Parkton, MD: York Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bradley, L. & Bryant, P. (1983). Categorizing sounds and learning to read: A causal connection,Nature 301: 419–421.Google Scholar
  13. Bradley, L. & Bryant, P. (1985).Rhyme and reason in reading and spelling. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  14. Brady, S. A. (1991). The role of working memory in reading disability. In: S. A. Brady & D. P. Shankweiler (eds.),Phonological processes in literacy: A tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman (pp. 129–151). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  15. Bruce, D. (1964). An analysis of word sounds by young children,British Journal of Psychology 34: 158–170.Google Scholar
  16. Bryant, P. & Bradley, L. (1985).Children's reading problems: Psychology and education. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Bryant, P., Bradley, L., Maclean, M. & Crossland, J. (1989). Nursery rhymes, phonological skill and reading,Journal of Child Language 16: 407–428.Google Scholar
  18. Bryant, P. E., Maclean, M., Bradley, L. & Crossland, J. (1990). Rhyme and alliteration, phoneme detection and learning to read,Developmental Psychology 26: 429–438.Google Scholar
  19. Byrne, B. & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1993). Evaluation of a program to teach phonemic awareness to young children: A 1-year follow-up,Journal of Educational Psychology 85: 104–111.Google Scholar
  20. Calfee, R. C. & Calfee, K. H. (1981). Interactive Reading Assessment System (IRAS). Unpublished manuscript, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  21. Clay, M. (1985).The early detection of reading difficulties, 3rd ed. Auckland, New Zealand: Heinmann.Google Scholar
  22. Cunningham, A. E. (1989). Phonological awareness: The development of early reading competency,Reading Research Quarterly 24: 471–472.Google Scholar
  23. Dunn, L. M. & Dunn, L. (1981).Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test — Revised. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  24. Ehri, L. C. & Wilce, L. S. (1987). Cipher versus cue reading: An experiment in decoding acquisition,Journal of Educational Psychology 79: 3–13.Google Scholar
  25. Ellis, N. (1989). Reading, phonological skills and short-term memory: Interactive tributaries of development. Unpublished paper. University College of North Wales.Google Scholar
  26. Gathercole, S. (1990). Working memory and language development: How close is the link?,The Psychologist 2: 57–60.Google Scholar
  27. Gathercole, S. & Baddeley, A. (1989). Evaluation of the role of phonetic short-term memory in the development of vocabulary in children: A longitudinal study,Journal of Memory and Language 28: 200–213.Google Scholar
  28. Gathercole, S., Willis, C. & Baddeley, A. (1991). Differentiating phonological memory and awareness of rhyme: Reading and vocabulary development in children,British Journal of Psychology 82: 387–406.Google Scholar
  29. Goswami, U. & Bryant, P. (1990).Phonological skills and learning to read. Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  30. Hansen, J. & Bowey, J. A. (1994). Phonological analysis skills, verbal working memory, and reading ability in second-grade children,Child Development 65: 938–950.Google Scholar
  31. Hoover, W. A., Calfee, R. C. & Mace-Matluck, B. J. (1984).Teaching reading to bilingual children study, vol. 5:Reading growth. Austin, TX: South West Educational Developmental Laboratory.Google Scholar
  32. Hulme, C. (1987). Reading retardation. In: J. R. Beech & A. M. Colley (eds.),Cognitive approaches to reading. London: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Johnson, D. D. (1971). The Dolch list re-examined,The Reading Teacher 24: 455–456.Google Scholar
  34. Johnson, R. S., Rugg, M. D. & Scott, T. (1987). Phonological similarity effects, memory span and developmental reading disorders: The nature of the relationship,British Journal of Psychology 78: 205–211.Google Scholar
  35. Juel, C., Griffith, P. & Gough, P. (1986). Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade,Journal of Educational Psychology 78: 243–255.Google Scholar
  36. Kirtley, C. L., Bryant, P., Maclean, M. & Bradley, L. (1989). Rhyme, rime and the onset of reading,Journal of Experimental Psychology 48: 224–245.Google Scholar
  37. Liberman, I. Y., Shankweiler, D., Liberman, A. M., Fowler, C. & Fischer, F. W. (1977). Phonemic segmentation and recoding in the beginning reader. In: A. S. Reber & D. L. Scarborough (eds.),Toward a psychology of reading (pp. 207–225). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  38. Lundberg, I., Frost, J. & Petersen. O. P. (1988). Effects of an extensive programme for stimulating phonological awareness in pre-school children,Reading Research Quarterly 23: 267–284.Google Scholar
  39. Mann, V. A. (1984). Longitudinal prediction and prevention of early reading difficulty,Annals of Dyslexia 34: 117–134.Google Scholar
  40. Mann, V. A. & Liberman, I. Y. (1984). Phonological awareness and verbal short-term memory,Journal of Learning Disabilities 17: 592–599.Google Scholar
  41. Neale, M. D. (1988).Neale Analysis of Reading Ability-Revised. Hawthorn: ACER.Google Scholar
  42. Perfetti, C. A. (1986). Continuities in reading acquisition, reading skill, and reading disability,Remedial and Special Education 7: 11–21.Google Scholar
  43. Rohl, M. (1991). The relationships between phonological awareness, verbal working memory and the acquisition of reading and spelling. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. The University of Western Australia.Google Scholar
  44. Rohl, M. & Tunmer, W. E. (1988). Phonemic segmentation skill and spelling acquisition,Applied Psycholinguistics 9: 335–350.Google Scholar
  45. Schonell, F. J. & Schonell, E. (1950). Diagnostic and attainment testing. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.Google Scholar
  46. Shankweiler, D. (1989). How problems of comprehension are related to difficulties in decoding. In: D. Shankweiler & I. Liberman (eds.),Phonology and reading disability: Solving the reading puzzle (pp. 35–68). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  47. Shankweiler, D. & Crain, S. (1986). Language mechanisms and reading disorder: A modular approach,Cognition 24: 132–168.Google Scholar
  48. Shankweiler, D. & Liberman, I. Y. (1976). Exploring the relations between reading and speech. In: R. M. Knights & D. J. Bakker (eds.),The neuropsychology of learning disorders (pp. 297–313). Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.Google Scholar
  49. Share, D. L., Jorm, A. F., Maclean, R. & Matthews, R. (1984). Sources of individual differences in reading acquisition,Journal of Educational Psychology 76: 1309–24.Google Scholar
  50. Swanson, H. L., Cochran, K. F. & Ewers, C. A. (1989). Working memory in skilled and less skilled readers,Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 17: 145–156.Google Scholar
  51. Thorndike, E. L. & Lorge, I. (1944).The teacher's word book of 30,000 words. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  52. Tunmer, W. E. (1989). The role of language-related factors in reading disability. In: D. Shankweiler & I. Liberman (eds.),Phonology and reading disability: Solving the reading puzzle (pp. 98–131). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  53. Tunmer, W. E., Herriman, M. L. & Nesdale, A. R. (1988). Metalinguistic abilities and beginning reading,Reading Research Quarterly 23: 134–158.Google Scholar
  54. Tunmer, W. E. & Hoover, W. A. (1993). Language related factors as sources of individual differences in the development of word recognition skills. In: G. B. Thompson, W. E. Tunmer & T. Nicholson (eds.),Reading acquisition processes. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  55. Tunmer, W. E. & Nesdale, A. R. (1982). The effects of digraphs and pseudowords on phonemic segmentation in young children,Applied Psycholinguistics 3: 299–311.Google Scholar
  56. Tunmer, W. E. & Rohl, M. (1991). Phonological awareness and reading acquisition. In: D. Sawyer & B. Fox (eds.),Phonological awareness in reading: The evolution of current perspectives (pp. 1–30). New York: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  57. Wagner. R. K & Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills,Psychological Bulletin 101: 192–212.Google Scholar
  58. Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., Laughton, P., Simmons, K. & Rashotte, C.A. (1993). Development of young readers' phonological processing abilities,Journal of Educational Psychology 85: 83–103.Google Scholar
  59. Wechsler, D. (1974).Manual for the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised. New York: Psychological Corp.Google Scholar
  60. Yopp, H. K. (1988). The validity and reliability of phonological awareness tests.Reading Research Quarterly 23: 159–177.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Rohl
    • 1
  • Chris Pratt
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Language EducationEdith Cowan UniversityChurchlandsAustralia
  2. 2.The University of Western AustraliaAustralia

Personalised recommendations