Annals of Dyslexia

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 149–173 | Cite as

Phonological awareness, speech development, and letter knowledge in preschool children

  • Virginia A. Mann
  • Judith G. Foy
Part III Speech Development, Perception, and Production; Components of Reading; Defining Mathematics Learning Disability


Phonological awareness has been shown to be one of the most reliable predictors and associates of reading ability. In an attempt to better understand its development, we have examined the interrelations of speech skills and letter knowledge to the phonological awareness and early reading skills of 99 preschool children. We found that phoneme awareness, but not rhyme awareness, correlated with early reading measures. We further found that phoneme manipulation was closely associated with letter knowledge and with letter sound knowledge, in particular, where rhyme awareness was closely linked with speech perception and vocabulary. Phoneme judgment fell in between. The overall pattern of results is consistent with phonological representation as an important factor in the complex relationship between preschool children’s phonological awareness, their emerging knowledge of the orthography, and their developing speech skills. However, where rhyme awareness is a concomitant of speech and vocabulary development, phoneme awareness more clearly associates with the products of literacy experience.


Phonological Awareness Speech Perception Word Reading Digit Span Poor Reader 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, M. R. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adlard, A., & Hazan, V. (1998). Speech perception in children with specific reading difficulties (dyslexia). The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 51A, 153–177.Google Scholar
  3. Ball, E., & Blachman, B. (1991). Does phoneme awareness in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition and developmental spelling? Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barron, R. W. (1998). Proto-literate knowledge: Antecedents and influences on phonological awareness and literacy. In C. Hulme & R. M. Joshi (Eds.). Reading and spelling: Development and disorders (pp. 153–175). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  5. Barron, R. W., Golden, J. O., Seldon, D. M., Tait, C. F., Marmurek, H. H. C., & Haines, L. C. (1992). Teaching prereading skills with a talking computer: Letter-sound knowledge and print feedback facilitate nonreaders’ phonological awareness training. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 4, 179–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barron, R. W. (1991) Proto-literacy, literacy, and the acquisition of phonological awareness. Learning and Individual Differences, 3, 243–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bertelson, P., de Gelder, B., Tfouni, L., & Morais, J. (1989). Metaphonological abilities of adult illiterates: New evidence for heterogeneity. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 1, 239–250.Google Scholar
  8. Bishop, D. V. M., & Adams, C. (1990). A prospective study of the relationship between specific language impairment, phonological disorders and reading retardation. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Applied Disciplines, 31(7), 1027–1050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. (1983). Categorizing sounds and learning to read - a causal connection. Nature, 301, 419–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. (1991). Phonological skills before and after learning to read. In S. A. Brady & D. P. Shankweiler (Eds.). Phonological processes in literacy: A tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman (pp. 37–45). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  11. Brady, S., Poggie, E., & Rapala, M. M. (1989). Speech repetition abilities in children who differ in reading skill. Language and Speech, 32(2), 109–122.Google Scholar
  12. Brady, S., Shankweiler, D., & Mann, V. A. (1983). Speech perception and memory coding in relation to reading ability. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 35, 345–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bryant, P. E., Bradley, L., MacLean, M., & Crossland, J. (1989). Nursery rhymes, phonological skills, and reading. Journal of Child Language, 16, 407–428.Google Scholar
  14. Burgess, S. R., & Lonigan, C. J. (1998). Bidirectional relations of phonological sensitivity and prereading abilities: Evidence from a preschool sample. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 70, 117–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Byrne, B. (1996). The learnability of the alphabetic principle: Children’s initial hypotheses about how print represents spoken language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 17(4), 401–426.Google Scholar
  16. Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805–812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Catts, H. (1986). Speech production/phonological deficits in reading-disordered children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 19, 504–508.Google Scholar
  18. Catts, H. (1991). Early identification of dyslexia: Evidence from a follow-up study of speech-language impaired children. Annals of Dyslexia, 41, 163–177.Google Scholar
  19. Chaney, C. (1992). Language development, metalinguistic skills, and print awareness in 3-year old children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 13, 485–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chiappe, P., Chiappe, D. L., & Siegel, L. (2001). Speech perception, lexicality and reading skill. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 80, 58–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clay, M. (1979). The early detection of reading difficulties: A diagnostic survey with recovery procedures (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.Google Scholar
  22. Criddle, M. J., & Durkin, K. (2001). Phonological representation of novel morphemes in children with SLI and typically developing children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 22(3), 363–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Defior, S., & Tudela, P. (1994). Effect of phonological training on reading and writing acquisition. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 6, 299–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dietrich, J. A., & Brady, S. A. (2001). Phonological representations of adult poor readers: An investigation of specificity and stability. Applied Psycholinguistics, 22(3), 383–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ehri, L. C. (1983). A critique of five studies related to latter-name knowledge and learning to read. In L. Gentile, M. Kamil, & J. Blanchard (Eds.). Reading research: Advances in theory and practice: Vol. 1 (pp. 143–153). Columbus, OH: Merrill.Google Scholar
  26. Elbro, C. (1990). Differences in dyslexia. A study of reading strategies and deficits in a linguistic perspective. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.Google Scholar
  27. Elbro, C. (1996). Early linguistic abilities and reading development: A review and a hypothesis. Reading and Writing, 8, 453–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Elbro, C., Borstrom, I., & Petersen, D. K. (1998). Predicting dyslexia from kindergarten: The importance of distinctness of phonological representations of lexical items. Reading Research Quarterly, 33(1), 36–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fowler, A. E. (1991). How early phonological development might set the stage for phonological awareness. In S. Brady & D. Shankweiler (Eds.). Phonological processes in literacy: A tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman (pp. 97–117). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  30. Foy, J. G., & Mann, V. A. (2001). Does strength of phonological representations predict phonological awareness in preschool children? Applied Psycholinguistics, 22(3), 301–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Foy, J. G., & Mann, V. A. (2003). Home literacy environment and phonological awareness: Differential effects for phoneme awareness and rhyme awareness. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 59–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Garlock, V. M., Walley, A. C., & Metsala, J. L. (2001). Age-of-acquisition, word frequency, and neighborhood density effects on spoken word recognition by children and adults. Journal of Memory and Language, 45(3), 468–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gathercole, S. E., Willis, C. S., Baddeley, A. D., & Emslie, H. (1994). The children’s test of nonword repetition: A test of phonological working memory. Memory. Special Issue: Memory tests and techniques, 2(2), 103–127.Google Scholar
  34. Godfrey, J. J., Syrdal-Lasky, A. K., Millay, K. K., & Knox, C. M. (1981). Performance of dyslexic children on speech perception tests. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 32, 401–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Goldman, R., & Fristoe, M. (1986). Goldman-Fristoe test of articulation. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  36. Goldman, R., Fristoe, M., & Woodcock, R. W. (1970). Test of auditory discrimination. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  37. Gottardo A., Stanovich, K. E., & Siegel, L. S. (1996). The relationships between phonological sensitivity, syntactic processing, and verbal working memory in the reading performance of third-grade children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63(3), 563–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hulme, C. (2002). Phonemes, rimes, and the mechanisms of early reading development. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82, 58–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hulme, C., Hatcher, P. J., Nation, K., Brown, A., Adams, J., & Stuart, G. (2002). Phoneme awareness is a better predictor of early reading skill than onset-rime awareness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82, 2–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Joanisse, M. F., Manis, F. R., Keating, P., & Seidenberg, M. S. (2000). Language deficits in dyslexic children: Speech perception, phonology and morphology, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 77(1), 30–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lyon, G. R. (1995). Toward a definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 45, 3–27.Google Scholar
  42. Manis, F. R., McBride-Chang, C., Seidenberg, M. S., Keating, P., Doi, L. M., & Petersen, A. (1997). Are speech perception deficits associated with developmental dyslexia? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 66, 211–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mann, V. A. (1984). Longitudinal prediction and prevention of early reading difficulty. Annals of Dyslexia, 34, 117–136.Google Scholar
  44. Mann, V. A. (1993). Phoneme awareness and future reading ability. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26, 259–269.Google Scholar
  45. Mann, V. A. (1998). Language problems: A key to early reading problems. In B. Y. L. Wong (Ed.). Learning about learning disabilities (2nd ed.) (pp. 163–201). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  46. Mann, V. A., Tobin, P., & Wilson, R. (1988). Measuring phonological awareness through the invented spelling of kindergarten children. In K. E. Stanovich (Ed.). Children’s reading and the development of phonological awareness (pp. 121–147). Detroit, MI: Wayne State University PressGoogle Scholar
  47. Mann, V. A., & Wimmer, H. (2002). Phoneme awareness and pathways into literacy: A comparison of German and American children. Reading and Writing, 15, 653–682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marshall, C. M., Snowling, M. J., & Bailey, P. J. (2001). Rapid auditory processing and phonological ability in normal readers and readers with dyslexia. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44(4), 925–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Metsala, J. L., & Walley, A. C. (1998). Spoken vocabulary growth and the segmental restructuring of lexical representations: Precursors to phonemic awareness and early reading ability. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.). Word recognition in beginning literacy (pp. 89–120). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  50. Morais, J. (1991a). Constraints on the development of phonemic awareness. In S. A. Brady & D. P. Shankweiler (Eds.). Phonological processes in literacy: A tribute to Isabelle Y. Liberman (pp. 5–27). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  51. Morais, J. (1991b). Phonological awareness: A bridge between language and literacy. In D. J. Sawyer & B. J. Fox (Eds.). Phonological awareness in reading: The evolution of current perspectives (pp. 31–71). New York: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  52. Morais, J., Bertelson, P., Cary, L., & Alegria, J. (1986). Literacy training and speech segmentation. Cognition, 24, 45–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Morais, J., Cary, L., Alegria, J., & Bertelson, P. (1979). Does awareness of speech as a sequence of phones arise spontaneously? Cognition, 7, 323–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Muter, V. (1994). The influence of phonological awareness and letter knowledge on beginning reading and spelling development. In C. Hulme & M. Snowling (Eds.). Reading development and dyslexia (pp. 45–62). London: Whurr.Google Scholar
  55. Muter, V., & Snowling, M. (1998). Concurrent and longitudinal predictors of reading: The role of metalinguistic and short-term memory skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 33(3), 320–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  57. Nittrouer, S. (1999). Do temporal processing deficits cause phonological processing problems? Journal of Speech, Language, & Hearing Research, 42(4), 925–942.Google Scholar
  58. Read, C. A., Zhang, Y., Nie, H., & Ding, B. (1986). The ability to manipulate speech sounds depends on knowing the alphabetic reading. Cognition, 24, 31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Serniclaes, W., Sprenger-Charolles, L., Carre, R., & Demonet, J.-F. (2001). Perceptual discrimination of speech sounds in developmental dyslexia. Journal of Speech, Language, & Hearing Research, 44(2), 384–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Silva, P. A., Williams, S. M., & McGee, R. (1987). A longitudinal study of children with developmental language delay at age three: Later intelligence, reading and behavior problems. Developmental Medicine and Neurology, 29, 630–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children/Committee on the prevention of reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  62. Snowling, M. (1981). Phonemic deficits in developmental dyslexia. Psychological Research, 43, 219–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Snowling, M., & Hulme, C. (1994). The development of phonological skills. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 41B, 21–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Snowling, M., Goulandris, N., Bowlby, M., & Howell, P. (1986). Segmentation and speech perception in relation to reading skill: A developmental analysis. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 41, 489–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Snowling, M., Hulme, C., Smith, A., & Thomas, J. (1994). The effects of phonemic similarity and list length on children’s sound categorisation performance. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 58, 160–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stanovich, K. E. (1992). Speculations on the causes and consequences of individual differences in the early reading acquisition. In P. B. Gough, L. C. Ehri, & R. Treiman (Eds.). Reading acquisition (pp. 307–342). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  67. Stanovich, K. E. (1994). Does dyslexia exist? Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 35(4), 579–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stothard, S. E., Snowling, M. J., Bishop, D. V. M., Chipcase, B. B., & Kaplan, C. A. (1998). Language-impaired preschoolers: A follow-up into adolescence. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 407–418.Google Scholar
  69. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  70. Torgesen, J. K., & Davis, C. (1996). Individual difference variables that predict response to training in phonological awareness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell: A study of first grade children. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Treiman, R. (1998). Why spelling? The benefits of incorporating spelling into beginning reading instruction. In J. L. Ehri & L. C. Metsala (Eds). Word recognition in beginning literacy (pp. 289–313). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  73. Treiman, R., & Broderick, V. (1998). What’s in a name: Children’s knowledge about the letters in their own name. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 70, 97–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Treiman, R., Tincoff, R., Rodriguez, K., Mouzaki, A., & Francis, D. J. (1998). The foundations of literacy: Learning the sounds of letters. Child Development, 69, 1524–1540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Treiman, R., Zukowski, A., & Richmond-Welty, E. D. (1995). What happened to the “n” of sink? Children’s spellings of final consonant clusters. Cognition, 55, 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wagner, R. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological Bulletin, 30, 73–87.Google Scholar
  77. Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1994). Development of reading-related phonological processing abilities: New evidence of bi-directional causality from a latent variable longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 36–39.Google Scholar
  78. Walley, A. C. (1993). The role of vocabulary development in children’s spoken word recognition and segmentation ability. Developmental Review, 13, 286–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wechsler, D. (1992). Wechsler intelligence scale for children. London: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  80. Werker, J. F., & Tees, R. C. (1987). Speech perception in severely disabled and average reading children. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 41, 48–61.Google Scholar
  81. Wolf, M. (1991). Naming speed and reading: The contribution of the cognitive neurosciences. Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 123–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Woodcock, R. M. (1987). Woodcock reading mastery - Revised, Form H. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  83. Worden, P. E., & Boettcher, W. (1990). Young children’s acquisition of alphabet knowledge. Journal of Reading Behavior, 22, 277–295.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The International Dyslexia Association 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia A. Mann
    • 1
  • Judith G. Foy
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive Sciences, School of Social SciencesUniversity of California, IrvineIrvine
  2. 2.Loyola Marymount UniversityLos Angeles

Personalised recommendations