Reading and Writing

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 163–192 | Cite as

Training of poor readers' phonological decoding skills: Evidence for syllable-bound processing



A flash card computer program designed to increase decoding speed in reading was evaluated with a sample of 55 eight- to twelve-year-old Dutch poor readers by using a pretest-training-posttest control group design. The reading level of the poor readers was comparable to the reading level of normal readers in grade two. After 8 weeks of practicing (twice a week) for 30 minutes per session, children in the training group showed substantial improvements in decoding speed not only on pseudowords directly practiced during the training, but also in untrained pseudowords and in existing words. The no-training control group did not improve in decoding speed from pre- to posttest. The results, furthermore, indicate that syllable-bound processes play a role in phonological decoding in Dutch, and that the flash card method used in this study stimulates poor readers to decode letter strings into syllabic units, which leads to an increase in decoding speed. The role of the syllable in phonological decoding and the potential of a specific flash card technique as a means to improve decoding skills of poor readers are discussed.

Developmental dyslexia Intervention Phonological decoding Reading disability Speed Syllables 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Badian, N.A. (1994). Do dyslexic and other poor readers differ in reading-related cognitive skills?, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 6: 45–63.Google Scholar
  3. Beech, J.R. & Harding, L.M. (1984). Phonemic processing and the poor reader from a developmental lag viewpoint, Reading Research Quarterly 19: 357–366.Google Scholar
  4. Butler, B.E., Jared, D. & Hains, S. (1984). Reading skill and the use of orthographic knowledge by mature readers, Psychological Research 46: 337–353.Google Scholar
  5. Coltheart, M. (1978). Lexical access in simple reading tasks. In G. Underwood (ed.), Strategies of Information Processing (pp. 151–216). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Coltheart, M., Curtis, B., Atkins, P. & Haller, M. (1993). Models of reading aloud: Dual-route and parallel-distributed-processing approaches, Psychological Review 100: 589–608.Google Scholar
  7. Das-Smaal, E.A., Klapwijk, M.J.G. & van der Leij, A. (1996). Training of perceptual unit processing in children with a reading disability, Cognition and Instruction 14: 221–250.Google Scholar
  8. Ehri, L.C. & Wilce, L.S. (1983). Development of word identification speed in skilled and less skilled beginning readers, Journal of Educational Psychology 75: 3–18.Google Scholar
  9. Eriksen, C.W., Pollack, M.D. & Montague, W.E. (1970). Implicit speech: Mechanism in perceptual encoding, Journal of Experimental Psychology 84: 502–507.Google Scholar
  10. Henderson, L. (1982). Orthography and word recognition in reading. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Henderson, L., Coltheart, M. & Woodhouse, D. (1973). Failure to find a syllabic effect in number naming, Memory & Cognition 1: 304–306.Google Scholar
  12. Jones, K.M., Torgesen, J.K. & Sexton, M. (1987). Using a computer guided practice to increase decoding fluency in learning disabled children: A study using the Hint and Hunt I program, Journal of Learning Disabilities 20: 122–128.Google Scholar
  13. Katz, L.& Feldman, L.B. (1981). Linguistic coding in word recognition: Comparisons between a deep and a shallow orthography. In A.M. Lesgold & C.A. Perfetti (eds.), Interactive processes in reading (pp. 85–106). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence.Google Scholar
  14. Klapp, S.T. (1971). Implicit speech inferred from response latencies in same-different decisions, Journal of Experimental Psychology 91: 262–267.Google Scholar
  15. Klapp, S.T. (1974). Syllable-dependent pronunciation latencies in number naming: A replication, Journal of Experimental Psychology 102: 1138–1140.Google Scholar
  16. Klapp, S.T., Anderson, W.G. & Berrian, R.W. (1973). Implicit speech in reading, reconsidered, Journal of Experimental Psychology 100: 368–374.Google Scholar
  17. Kohnstamm, G.A., Schaerlaekens, A.M., de Vries, A.K., Akkerhuis, G.W. & Froonincksx, M. (1981). Nieuwe streeflijst woordenschat voor 6-jarigen: gebaseerd op onderzoek in Nederland en België [New target list vocabulary for 6-year olds: Based on research in The Netherlands and Belgium]. Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  18. LaBerge, D. & Samuels, S.J. (1974). Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading, Cognitive Psychology 6: 293–323.Google Scholar
  19. Lemoine, H.E., Levy, B.A. & Hutchinson, A. (1993). Increasing the naming speed of poor readers: Representations formed across repetitions, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 55: 297–328.Google Scholar
  20. Lesgold, A. & Resnick, L. (1982). How reading difficulties develop: Perspectives from a longitudinal study. In J. Das, R. Mulcahey & A. Waal (eds.), Theory and research in learning disabilities (pp. 155–187). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  21. Levelt, W.J.M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lovett, M.W., Ransby, M.J., Hardwick, N., Johns, M.S. & Donaldson, S.A. (1989). Can dyslexia be treated? Treatment-specific and generalized treatment effects in dyslexic children's response to remediation, Brain and Language 37: 90–121.Google Scholar
  23. Lovett, M.W., Warren-Chaplin, P.M., Ransby, M.J. & Borden, S.L. (1990). Training in word recognition skills of reading disabled children: Treatment and transfer effects, Journal of Educational Psychology 82: 769–780.Google Scholar
  24. Manis, F.R. (1985). Acquisition of word identification skills in normal and disabled readers, Journal of Educational Psychology 77: 78–90.Google Scholar
  25. Marmurek, H.H.C. & Rinaldo, R. (1992). The development of letter and syllable effects in categorization, reading aloud, and picture naming, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 53: 277–299.Google Scholar
  26. Mason, M. (1978). From print to sound in mature readers as a function of reader ability and two forms of orthographic regularity, Memory & Cognition 6: 568–581.Google Scholar
  27. McCormick, C. & Samuels, S.J. (1980). Word recognition by second graders: The unit of perception and interrelationships among accuracy, latency, and comprehension, Journal of Reading Behavior 11: 107–118.Google Scholar
  28. Mewhort, D.J.K. & Beal, A.L. (1977). Mechanisms of word identification, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 3: 629–640.Google Scholar
  29. Mewhort, D.J.K. & Campbell, A.J. (1981). Toward a model of skilled reading: An analysis of performance in tachistoscopic tasks. In G.E. Mackinnon & T.G. Waller (eds.), Reading research: Advances in theory and practice (Vol. 3, pp. 39–118). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Olson, R.K. & Wise, B.W. (1992). Reading on the computer with orthographic and speech feedback: An overview of the Colorado remediation project, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 4: 107–144.Google Scholar
  31. Perfetti, C.A. (1985). Reading ability. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Prinzmetal, W., Treiman, R. & Rho, S.H. (1986). How to see a reading unit, Journal of Memory and Language 25: 461–475.Google Scholar
  33. Rack, J.P., Snowling, M.J. & Olson, R.K. (1992). The nonword reading deficit in developmental dyslexia: A review, Reading Research Quarterly 27: 29–53.Google Scholar
  34. Reitsma, P. & Verhoeven, L. (1990). Acquisition of reading in Dutch. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.Google Scholar
  35. Roth, S.F. & Beck, I.L. (1987). Theoretical and instructional implications of the assessment of two microcomputer word recognition programs, Reading Research Quarterly 22: 197–218.Google Scholar
  36. Samuels, S.J., LaBerge, D. & Bremer, C.D. (1978). Units of word recognition: Evidence for developmental changes, Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 17: 715–720.Google Scholar
  37. Scheerer-Neumann, G. (1981). The utilization of intraword structure in poor readers: Experimental evidence and a training program, Psychological Research 43: 155–178.Google Scholar
  38. Smeets, H. & van der Leij, A. (1995). Effecten van een multicomponentieel computergestuurd programma op technisch lezen [Effects of a multi-componential computer-based reading program], Tijdschrift voor Orthopedagogiek 34: 128–149.Google Scholar
  39. Snowling, M.J. (1980). The development of grapheme-phoneme correspondence in normal and dyslexic readers, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 29: 294–305.Google Scholar
  40. Snowling, M.J. (1981). Phonemic deficits in developmental dyslexia, Psychological Research 43: 219–234.Google Scholar
  41. Staphorsius, G., Krom, R.S.H. & de Geus, K. (1989). Frequenties van woordvormen en letterposities in jeugdliteratuur [Frequencies of word forms and letter positions in youth literature]. Arnhem: Cito.Google Scholar
  42. Sternberg, S., Monsell, S., Knoll, R.L. & Wright, C.E. (1978). The latency and duration of rapid movement sequences: Comparisons of speech and typewriting. In G.E. Stelmach (ed.), Information processing in motor control and learning (pp. 118–152). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  43. Tousman, S. & Inhoff, A. (1992). Phonology in multisyllabic word recognition, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 21: 525–544.Google Scholar
  44. Van Bon, W.H.J. (1994). Remediation of reading problems: Effects of training at word and subword level. In E.M.H. Assink (ed.), Literacy acquisition and social context (pp. 150–175). Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  45. Van Bon, W.H.J., van Kessel, A.E.G. & Kortenhorst, E.P.M. (1987). Beënvloeding van woordherkenningssnelheid door middel van flash cards [Affecting word identification speed by flash cards]. In J. Hamers & A. van der Leij (eds.), Dyslexie 87. Utrecht, The Netherlands (pp. 87–94). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  46. Van den Bosch, K. (1991). Poor readers' decoding skills: Effects of training, task, and word characteristics. Doctoral dissertation, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  47. Van den Bosch, K., van Bon, W.H.J. & Schreuder, R. (1995). Poor readers' decoding skills: Effects of training with limited exposure duration, Reading Research Quarterly 30: 110–125.Google Scholar
  48. Van der Leij, A. (1987). Special education in the Netherlands. In C.R. Reynolds & L. Mann (eds.), Encyclopedia of special education (pp. 1094–1095). New York: JohnWiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  49. Van der Leij, A. (1994). Effects of computer-assisted instruction on word and pseudoword reading of reading-disabled students. In K.P. van den Bos, L.S. Siegel, D.J. Bakker & D.L. Share (eds.), Current directions in dyslexia research (pp. 251–267). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  50. Van Heuven, V.J. (1980). Aspects of Dutch orthography and reading. In J.F. Kavanagh & R.L. Venezky (eds.), Orthography, reading, and dyslexia (pp. 57–73). Baltimore: University Park Press.Google Scholar
  51. Vellutino, F.R., Scanlon, D.M. & Spearing, D. (1995). Semantic and phonological coding in poor and normal readers, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 59: 76–123.Google Scholar
  52. Verhoeven, L. (1992). Drie-Minuten-Toets [Three-Minutes-Test]. Arnhem: Cito.Google Scholar
  53. 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
  54. Wentink, H.W.M.J. (1997). From graphemes to syllables: The development of phonological decoding skills in poor and normal readers. Doctoral dissertation, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  55. Yap, R. (1993). Automatic word processing deficits in dyslexia: Qualitative differences and specific remediation. Doctoral dissertation, Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

    • 1
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Special EducationUniversity of NijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Interfaculty Research Unit for Language and SpeechUniversity of NijmegenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations