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RRF Newsletter 47 back to contents
Research DigestJennifer Chew

The following articles have been recently published:

Nation, K., Allen, R., and Hulme, C., 2001. The limitations of orthographic analogy in early reading development: Performance on the clue-word task depends on phonological priming and elementary decoding skill, not the use of orthographic analogy. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 80, pp. 75-94. This study is part of the continuing debate about the theory that beginning readers can work out a pronunciation for an unfamiliar printed word by seeing that its spelling, or orthography, is similar to the spelling of a familiar word. The study shows that children are not really seeing orthographic similarities but relying on ‘phonological priming’ – i.e. it is hearing a ‘clue word’ pronounced by an adult, rather than seeing it printed, which cause them to produce a similar-sounding word. Nation et al. ran some analogy experiments with children whose average age was 6.0 years. They found that ‘an equivalent number of “analogy” responses were made regardless of whether the clue word was seen or just heard’. These findings are yet another challenge to the view that young children make analogies in a way that is useful for reading: the analogy strategy is not useful as a way of  reading unfamiliar words if it requires that an adult is on hand to pronounce the clue word for the child.  Nation et al. conclude that ‘the extent to which beginning readers make orthographic analogies is overestimated and as a consequence, theories that emphasise the importance of orthographic analogy as a mechanism for driving the development of early reading skills need to be questioned’.

Bastien-Toniazzo, M., and Jullien, S., 2001. Nature and importance of the logographic phase in learning to read. Reading and writing: An interdisciplinary journal, 14, pp. 119-143. The researchers worked with French children who had an average age of 5 years 4 months and had received no formal reading instruction. They found that the children attempted to read words by treating some (but not all) of the letters in them as distinguishing features. The children did not, however, pay attention to the order in which letters appeared. The authors conclude that young children do tend to recognise words ‘logographically’ before they receive formal instruction, but only in the sense outlined here – i.e. their recognition is letter-based. The researchers found no evidence that children recognise words ‘globally’ or by their general shape.

Savage, R., Stuart, M., and Hill, V., 2001. ‘The role of scaffolding errors in reading development: Evidence from a longitudinal and a correlational study’. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 71, pp. 1-13. Savage et al. define ‘scaffolding errors’ as errors ‘preserving both initial and final phonemes (e.g ‘bark’ misread as ‘bank’)’. These are distinguished from errors which preserve  ‘either initial or final phonemes (e.g. ‘bark’ misread as ‘bed’ or ‘like’)’, ‘distant or unrelated errors (e.g. ‘bark’ misread as ‘can’ or ‘men’)’ and ‘refusals’ (children unable to make any attempt at reading a word). The researchers found that when the four types of errors were considered, the proportion of scaffolding errors made at the age of 6 was the best predictor of reading achievement at the age of 8. One finding which the researchers refer to as ‘possibly surprising’ was that ‘errors preserving only initial letters were not good predictors of reading ability’. The study is consistent with the view that the more attention children are paying to the letters in words at the age of 6, the better they are likely to be reading at 8, although this conclusion is not explicitly stated in the article.

 

 

 

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