Speech and non-speech stimuli in the prediction of early reading skills: the influence of processing demands and response-type

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Purpose: Both phonological (speech) and auditory (non-speech) stimuli have been shown to predict early reading skills. However, previous studies have failed to control for the level of processing required by tasks administered across the two levels of stimuli. For example, phonological tasks typically tap explicit awareness e.g., phoneme deletion, while auditory tasks usually measure implicit awareness e.g., frequency discrimination. Therefore, the stronger predictive power of speech tasks may be due to their higher processing demands, rather than the nature of the stimuli. Method: The present study uses novel tasks that control for level of processing (isolation, repetition and deletion) across speech (phonemes and nonwords) and non-speech (tones) stimuli. 800 beginning readers at the onset of literacy tuition (mean age 4 years and 7 months) were assessed on the above tasks as well as word reading and letter-knowledge in the first part of a three time-point longitudinal study. Results: Time 1 results reveal a significantly higher association between letter-sound knowledge and all of the speech compared to non-speech tasks. Performance was better for phoneme than tone stimuli, and worse for deletion than isolation and repetition across all stimuli. Conclusions: Results are consistent with phonological accounts of reading and suggest that level of processing required by the task is less important than stimuli type in predicting the earliest stage of reading.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
Event19th Annual Meeting Society for the Scientific Study of Reading - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 11 Jul 201214 Jul 2012


Meeting19th Annual Meeting Society for the Scientific Study of Reading
Abbreviated titleSSSR 2012

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