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Relations between reading and writing: a longitudinal examination from grades 3 to 6

Abstract

We investigated developmental trajectories of and the relation between reading and writing (word reading, reading comprehension, spelling, and written composition), using longitudinal data from students in Grades 3–6 in the US. Results revealed that word reading and spelling were best described as having linear growth trajectories whereas reading comprehension and written composition showed nonlinear growth trajectories with a quadratic function during the examined developmental period. Word reading and spelling were consistently strongly related (.73 ≤ rs ≤ .80) whereas reading comprehension and written composition were weakly related (.21 ≤ rs ≤ .37). Initial status and linear slope were negatively and moderately related for word reading (− .44) whereas they were strongly and positively related for spelling (.73). Initial status of word reading predicted initial status and growth rate of spelling; and growth rate of word reading predicted growth rate of spelling. In contrast, spelling did not predict word reading. When it comes to reading comprehension and writing, initial status of reading comprehension predicted initial status (.69), but not linear growth rate, of written comprehension. These results indicate that reading–writing relations are stronger at the lexical level than at the discourse level and may be a unidirectional one from reading to writing at least between Grades 3 and 6. Results are discussed in light of the interactive dynamic literacy model of reading–writing relations, and component skills of reading and writing development.

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Notes

  1. The similarities that reading and writing draw on do not indicate that reading and writing are the same or a single construct (Kim & Graham, 2018). Instead, reading and writing differ in demands and thus, in the extent to which they draw on resources. Spelling places greater demands on memory for accurate recall of word specific spelling patterns than does word reading, and word reading and spelling are not likely the same constructs (see Ehri, 2000 for a review; but see Kim et al., 2015a, b; Mehta, Foorman, Branum-Martin, & Taylor, 2005). Written composition is also a more self-directed process than reading comprehension, and thus, is likely to draw on self-regulation to a greater extent than for reading comprehension (Kim & Graham, 2018).

  2. There is a dip in sample size in Grade 4. This was primarily because a few schools’ decision not to participate in the study during that year with changes in the leadership.

  3. An alternative model tested a covariance between reading comprehension and written composition initial status, resulting in a .67 correlation between the constructs.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, P50 HD052120. The authors appreciate participating children, their parents, and teachers and school personnel.

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Correspondence to Young-Suk Grace Kim.

Appendix

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See Tables 4 and 5.

Table 4 Unstandardized model coefficients for passage comprehension and writing structural equation model
Table 5 Unstandardized model coefficients for word reading and spelling structural equation model

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Kim, YS.G., Petscher, Y., Wanzek, J. et al. Relations between reading and writing: a longitudinal examination from grades 3 to 6. Read Writ 31, 1591–1618 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-018-9855-4

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Keywords

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Developmental trajectories
  • Spelling
  • Interactive dynamic literacy model