Language and Literacy Skills: Literacy - Text-Based Skills - Digital Promise

Language and Literacy Skills: Literacy – Text-Based Skills

Sections


Alphabet Knowledge

Alphabet Knowledge refers to familiarity with letter names, forms, and corresponding sounds. It is an early literacy skill that is one of the best predictors of later reading and spelling skills (Hammill, 2004; Scarborough, 1998). It may be a better predictor of later literacy skills than oral language skills or Phonological Awareness (Burgess & Lonigan, 1998; McBride-Chang, 1999).

Assessment

  • Ask the child to give the name and sound of each uppercase letter presented on randomly ordered flashcards. This can also be repeated with lowercase letters.

Learner Factor Connections

  • Decoding: The ability to apply knowledge of relationships between letters and speech sounds to properly recognize and pronounce words
    • The ability to decode is dependent on early literacy skills including Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Home Literacy Environment (HLE): The environment the family provides to help a child gain precursors of reading/spelling skills including access to reading materials and exposure to reading/literacy concepts
    • Active HLE aspects (time spent reading to the child, etc.) are positively associated with growth in Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Inhibition: The ability to suppress attention to irrelevant stimuli to focus on pertinent stimuli/information, both controlling responses and attention
    • Inhibition skills in kindergarteners have been positively linked to Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Phonological Awareness: The knowledge of and ability to manipulate and detect sounds in words
    • Alphabet Knowledge is predictive of Phonological Awareness skills, such as rhyming and blending phonemes.
  • Print Awareness: Understanding the forms, functions, and conventions of print
    • Knowledge of print forms, an essential component of Print Awareness, includes Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Self-Regulation: The ability to alter responses and align them with standards, such as social expectations
    • Self-Regulation skills in preschool are a predictor of Alphabet Knowledge in kindergarten, likely because Self-Regulation skills help children learn more effectively in the classroom.
  • Short-term Memory (verbal): The ability to hold information for a short period of time; verbal Short-term Memory specifically measures the storage capacity for verbal information
    • Verbal Short-term Memory measured at age 4 has been shown to be a significant predictor of Alphabet Knowledge by the end of kindergarten (almost 6 years old).
  • Social Supports: The perception of the support network, including parents, friends, and teachers, that is available to help if needed
    • Children with positive relationships with their peers often have better Alphabet Knowledge than children who do not have these strong relationships. This may be because positive peer relationships are a key factor in a student’s engagement at school. Another possibility is peer relationships skills partially depend upon language and literacy skills. Thus, stronger language and literacy skills, including Alphabet Knowledge, contribute to forming stronger peer relationships.
  • Speed of Processing: The time it takes to perceive information, process it, and/or formulate or enact a response
    • A faster Speed of Processing aids in the acquisition of Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Visual Processing: The process of interpreting visual stimuli as meaningful input
    • Visual Processing skills aid in the acquisition of Alphabet Knowledge.

Research Findings

  • A large number of children enter kindergarten knowing less than half of the names of letters in the alphabet and even fewer sounds that correspond to those letters (US. Department of Health and Human Services & Administration for Children and Families, 2005, 2006).
  • Providing children with combined letter name and sound instruction for Alphabet Knowledge acquisition can significantly enhance Alphabet Knowledge. However, there are conflicting results over whether this training does generalize to other emergent literacy skills (Scarborough, 1998) or does not generalize (Piasta, Purpura, & Wagner, 2010) to other emergent literacy skills, such as developmental spelling, emergent reading, or Phonological Awareness.
  • Reading achievement in the 1st grade is strongly predicted by letter knowledge (and Phonological Awareness), even when controlling for teacher-rated academic competence and parental education level (Ortiz et al., 2012). Children who develop reading problems have been found to have significantly less letter knowledge in kindergarten than peers who do not develop reading problems (De Jong & van der Leij, 2003).
  • Alphabet Knowledge is tied to the development of Phonological Awareness (Lerner & Lonigan, 2016), such that Alphabet Knowledge is predictive of growth in rhyme, blending (combining individual phonemes to form a word), and elision (being able to delete certain phonemes from a word properly, such as asking a child to say the word keyboard without saying key, with the correct answer being board).
  • Differences in children’s Home Literacy Environment, the environment that parents and caregivers provide their children to help them gain early literacy skills, impact how well children will acquire Alphabet Knowledge (Burgess, Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002). Active aspects of the Home Literacy Environment (e.g., time spent reading to the child) are positively associated with growth in letter knowledge.
  • Phonological memory (aka verbal Short-term Memory) measured at the beginning of preschool (at age 4) has been shown to be a significant predictor of Alphabet Knowledge by the end of kindergarten (almost 6 years old) (De Jong & Olson, 2004).
  • Decoding is an essential aspect of reading and refers to the ability to read words by applying knowledge of relationships between letters and speech sounds to properly pronounce words. This also includes knowledge of letter patterns. The ability to decode is dependent on early literacy skills, such as Phonological Awareness and Alphabet Knowledge (Ehri et al., 2001; Papadopoulos et al., 2003).
  • Blair and Razza (2007) investigated the role of different aspects of Self-Regulation in 41 children in preschool and one year later in kindergarten. They measured Inhibition and Attention (executive functioning skills), as well as the ability to self-regulate Emotions in the classroom. Inhibitory control was measured using a peg-tapping procedure where children are given a wooden dowel and instructed to tap once when the experimenter taps twice and tap twice when the experimenter taps once. This measures how well children can inhibit the automatic impulse to tap the same amount of times as the experimenter. They measured children’s Alphabet Knowledge and Vocabulary, along with other academic measures (including math). They found that inhibitory control and Self-Regulation in preschool was a strong predictor of Alphabet Knowledge in kindergarten. The authors believe this indicates that inhibitory control is an important component for the acquisition of Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Alphabet Knowledge is an essential component of Print Awareness, which is an early literacy skill. Print Awareness refers to understanding the forms, functions, and conventions of print (Justice & Ezell, 2001). Children with Print Awareness understand that text represents spoken language and that print conveys meaning (print functions), understand reading conventions (e.g., in English, lines of print are read left to right, and text begins at the top of a page and ends at the bottom of a page), know how to handle books properly (e.g., how to turn the page properly), and are familiar with book elements such as the cover and author. Knowledge of print forms is also essential and refers to a combination of Alphabet Knowledge, the knowledge that words and letters are distinguishable and that letters can be capitalized or lowercase, and recognizing punctuation units.
  • Rouse and Fantuzzo (2006) investigated the relationship between early literacy skills (measured by DIBELS subtests) and peer relationships (as measured by the PIPPS) in a group of kindergarten students in a district that primarily educates low-income, minority students. Social Supports refers to a child’s perceived support network, including parents, friends, and teachers, that is available to help if needed. Peer relationships are an important part of the Social Supports that help children thrive in school. Rouse and Fantuzzo found that peer interactions during free play were significantly correlated with scores on letter naming (Alphabet Knowledge), nonsense words (Alphabet Knowledge) and phoneme segmentation (Phonological Awareness).
  • Shaul and Nevo (2015) examined the relationship between Speed of Processing (measured using rapid automatic naming) and reading skills. They tested a group of 96 kindergarteners on measures of print knowledge, Alphabet Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, and rapid naming speed. Then they tested the same group of children a year later on measures of rapid automatic naming and reading skills (Decoding, fluency, comprehension). Speed of Processing ability was a strong predictor of early literacy skills including Alphabet Knowledge (measured by letter naming) and Print Awareness in kindergarten and reading abilities in the first grade. Slower processors have weaker reading comprehension and fluency skills, and faster processors have stronger comprehension and fluency skills. Slower processors also displayed weaker Decoding skills than faster processors (Shaul & Nevo, 2015).
  • Bosse and colleagues (2015) investigated the relationship between Visual Processing skills and orthographic learning in a group of French children (n = 88) in the 3rd to 5th grades. Orthographic knowledge refers to knowledge of how to represent spoken language in its written form with Alphabet Knowledge an important component. They examined the acquisition of orthographic knowledge using pseudowords. Their results indicated that gaining orthographic knowledge was aided by the ability to process an entire string of letters at once. Also, they discussed that Decoding depends on the successful mapping of visual input to phonological information.

References

Bosse, M. L., Chaves, N., Largy, P., & Valdois, S. (2015). Orthographic learning during reading: The role of whole‐word visual processing. Journal of Research in Reading, 38(2), 141-158.

Burgess, S. R., Hecht, S. A., & Lonigan, C. J. (2002). Relations of the home literacy environment (HLE) to the development of reading-related abilities: A one-year longitudinal study. Reading Research Quarterly, 37(4), 408-426.

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(2), 117-141.

De Jong, P. F., & Olson, R. K. (2004). Early predictors of letter knowledge. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 88(3), 254-273.

De Jong, P. F., & van der Leij, A. (2003). Developmental changes in the manifestation of a phonological deficit in dyslexic children learning to read a regular orthography. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 22-40.

Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Stahl, S. A., & Willows, D. M. (2001). Systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 71, 393–447.

Guo, Y., Justice, L. M., Kaderavek, J. N., & McGinty, A. (2012). The literacy environment of preschool classrooms: Contributions to children’s emergent literacy growth. Journal of Research in Reading, 35(3), 308-327.

Hammill D.D. (2004). What we know about correlates of reading. Exceptional Children, 70(4), 453-468.

Justice L.M., & Ezell, H.K. (2001). Word and print awareness in 4-year-old children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 17, 207–225.

Lerner, M. D., & Lonigan, C. J. (2016). Bidirectional relations between phonological awareness and letter knowledge in preschool revisited: A growth curve analysis of the relation between two code-related skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 144, 166-183.

McBride-Chang, C. (1999). The ABCs of the ABCs: The development of letter-name and letter-sound knowledge. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 45(2), 285-308.

Piasta, S.B., Purpura, D. J., & Wagner, R. K. (2010). Fostering alphabet knowledge development: A comparison of two instructional approaches. Reading and Writing, 23(6), 607-626.

Rouse, H.L., & Fantuzzo, J.W. (2006). Validity of the dynamic indicators for basic early literacy skills as an indicator of early literacy for urban kindergarten children. School Psychology Review, 35(3), 341-355.

Scarborough, H. S. (1998). Early identification of children at risk for reading disabilities: Phonological awareness and some other promising predictors. In B. K. Shapiro, P. J. Accardo, & A. J. Capute (Eds.), Specific reading disability: A view of the spectrum (pp. 75-119). Timonium, MD: York Press.

Shaul, S., & Nevo, E. (2015). Different speed of processing levels in childhood and their contribution to early literacy and reading abilities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 32, 193-203.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, & Administration for Children and Families. (2005). Head Start impact study: First year findings. Washington, DC.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, & Administration for Children and Families. (2006). Head Start FACES findings: New research on Head Start outcomes and program quality. Washington, DC.


Decoding

Decoding is an essential aspect of reading and refers to the ability to read words by applying knowledge of relationships between letters and speech sounds to properly pronounce words. This also includes knowledge of letter patterns. The ability to decode is dependent on early literacy skills such as Phonological Awareness (the knowledge of and ability to detect and manipulate sounds in words) and Alphabet Knowledge (familiarity with letter names, forms, and the corresponding sounds) (Ehri et al., 2001; Papadopoulos et al., 2003).

Assessments

  • The Word Attack subtest of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test – Revised (Woodcock, 1998): Requires a student to read pseudowords. The student’s performance is scored using regular phonics rules.
  • The DIBELS Initial Sound Fluency subtest: Measures a student’s ability to recognize and correctly produce the initial sound in an orally presented word. The examiner presents the student with four pictures and names the object in each picture then asks which picture belongs with a specific letter. It is designed for students in their last year of preschool through the middle of kindergarten (Good & Kaminski, 2002).

Learner Factor Connections

  • Alphabet Knowledge: Familiarity with letter names, forms, and corresponding sounds
    • Decoding is dependent on early literacy skills including Alphabet Knowledge.
  • Attention: The ability to focus on a specific task without being distracted, as well as the ability to select relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information
    • Poor Attention skills in preschool contribute to weak Decoding skills in kindergarten. Research suggests this is because students with Attention deficits have difficulty learning early literacy skills (e.g., Alphabet Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, and Vocabulary), which contribute to Decoding skills.
  • Inhibition: The ability to suppress attention to irrelevant stimuli to focus on pertinent stimuli/information, both controlling responses and attention
    • Inhibition skills are predictive of Decoding skills. Researchers have proposed that Inhibition aids Decoding, as it helps suppress words that are similar to the target word.
  • Morphological Awareness: Sensitivity to linguistic units (morphemes) including root words, prefixes, suffixes, intonations, and stress, which all convey meaning
    • Morphological Awareness contributes to Decoding skills by helping students successfully decode morphologically complex words.
  • Phonological Awareness: The knowledge of and ability to manipulate and detect sounds in words
    • Decoding skills are dependent on early literacy skills including Phonological Awareness.
  • Short-term Memory: The ability to hold information for a short period of time
    • Verbal Short-term Memory is important for Decoding novel words.
  • Speed of Processing: The time it takes to perceive information, process it, and/or formulate or enact a response
    • A faster Speed of Processing makes Decoding more efficient.
  • Visual Processing: The process of interpreting visual stimuli as meaningful input
    • Decoding uses Visual Processing skills to map visual stimuli to phonological information (speech sounds).
  • Vocabulary: Includes both the lexical representations of stored sounds (word forms) and the semantic meaning associated with each of those stored sounds. Vocabulary depth is the extent to which the student knows words’ properties including definitions, spelling, and pronunciation.
    • Vocabulary depth is predictive of Decoding skills.
  • Working Memory: The type of memory that allows a person to temporarily hold and manipulate information for use in many complex cognitive processes
    • Working Memory contributes to Decoding through the phonological loop, which processes spoken and written information through temporary storage and repetition.

Research Findings

  • Ouellette (2006) found that receptive Vocabulary depth was predictive of Decoding performance in a group of typically developing 4th grade students. However, expressive Vocabulary breadth predicted visual word recognition skills. Vocabulary breadth refers to the number of lexical entries, whereas Vocabulary depth refers to the extent and richness of the semantic representation.
  • Kendeou and colleagues (2009) conducted a longitudinal study examining Decoding and oral language skills at two time points in a group of 4- and 6-year-old children (Time 1) and two years later when they were 6- and 8-year-olds respectively (Time 2). The oral language skills tested included listening comprehension, television comprehension, and Vocabulary. In the group of 4-year-olds (at Time 1), Decoding skills predicted their Decoding skills two years later when they were 6-year-olds (Time 2). Also, in preschool (age 4), oral language skills predicted Decoding skills. However, this pattern was weaker in the kindergarten and 2nd grade students. Moreover, both Decoding skills and oral language skills independently predicted reading comprehension in the 2nd grade. Based on their findings, the authors propose that reading education should continue to focus on the development of Decoding skills but that they should also include oral language skill development such as Narrative Skills.
  • In a meta-analysis of 110 studies (including participants between ages 5 and 53), Garcia and Cain (2013) investigated the relationship between Decoding skills and reading comprehension. They found that Decoding and reading comprehension were moderately correlated and that age and listening comprehension abilities moderated the relationship. The relationship between Decoding and reading comprehension skills decreased as age increased. Listening comprehension was a significant predictor of the relationship between Decoding and reading comprehension skills, such that higher listening comprehension scores were associated with a lower correlation between Decoding and reading comprehension. Also, Vocabulary was not a significant predictor of the Decoding-reading comprehension relationship.
  • The contribution of attentional control (e.g., response Inhibition, sustained Attention, cognitive Inhibition) and Working Memory to both Decoding and reading comprehension skills was investigated by Arrington and colleagues (2014). Response Inhibition was measured in a task where students were required to press specific buttons based on stimuli presented on a computer screen, but a beep would require them to inhibit their response. Response times and accuracy were measured. Working Memory was measured in a task where students had to recall a string of digits but repeated in the reverse order. Their results indicated that both response Inhibition and Working Memory directly impacted Decoding skills. They proposed that response Inhibition aided Decoding because it allowed for the Inhibition of words that were orthographically similar to the target word. The authors explain that the phonological loop in Working Memory is essential for Decoding.
  • Dice and Schwanenflugel (2012) investigated the relationship between Attention skills in prekindergarten and Decoding abilities in kindergarten. To do this, they had a sample of 250 children and used structural equation modeling (a statistical technique that allows researchers to investigate the relationship between different variables of interest – in this case Attention and Decoding abilities). The children were assessed within one month of entering prekindergarten (Time 1) and also within a month of the end of their year of kindergarten (Time 2). Teacher ratings of Attention were measured using an experimental short form of the the Teacher Rating Scale – Preschool of the Behavioral Assessment System for Children (TRS-P BASC, Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992), called the BASC screener (Yanosky, 2005; Yanosky et al., 2011), which contains 25 items. Decoding was assessed in kindergarten using the Early Decoding Test (Schwanenflugel et al., 2010). Receptive Vocabulary (measured using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – III, Dunn & Dunn, 1997) and expressive Vocabulary (measured using the Expressive Vocabulary Test, EVT, Williams, 1997), Alphabet Knowledge (measured using identification of letter shapes/names/sounds), and Phonological Awareness (measured using the Phonological Awareness Test, PAT, Robertson & Salter, 1997) were also assessed. Their results indicated that poor Attention skills in prekindergarten contribute to weak emergent literacy skills (e.g., Phonological Awareness, Alphabet Knowledge, receptive/expressive Vocabulary), which leads to poor Decoding skills in kindergarten.
  • Morphological knowledge refers to sensitivity to morphemes and linguistic units including root words, prefixes, suffixes, intonations, and stress, which all convey meaning. Morphology is important to a variety of literacy skills including reading comprehension (Nagy et al., 2003), reading fluency, spelling, and word identification (Green, 2009). Morphological Awareness likely contributes to literacy in several ways including enabling readers/spellers to decode and produce longer words more accurately (by recognizing the multiple components in a word: roots/prefixes/suffixes), providing understanding of the writing system, helping children process language analytically, and facilitating Vocabulary development (Nagy et al., 2003).
  • Kibby (2009) investigated the impact of Phonological Awareness, phonological storage, phonological rehearsal, articulation rate, and Long-term Memory on verbal Short-term Memory in a group of children with reading disabilities and a control group (all groups between ages 9 to 14). Verbal Short-term Memory was measured using a serial recall task on common words, less frequent words, and nonwords. Kibby found that children with a reading disability performed similarly to controls on frequent words but performed significantly worse on less frequent and nonwords. This was attributed to poorer quality representations in Long-term Memory for less frequent words. Also, Phonological Awareness was impaired for items that were coded phonetically, relative to items coded by their meaning. Kibby concluded that verbal Short-term Memory impacts reading ability for novel words that must be decoded.
  • Shaul and Nevo (2015) examined the relationship between Speed of Processing (measured using rapid automatic naming) and reading skills. They tested a group of 96 kindergarteners on measures of Print Awareness, Alphabet Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, and rapid naming speed, then they tested the same group of children a year later on measures of rapid automatic naming and reading skills (Decoding, fluency, comprehension). Speed of Processing ability was a strong predictor of early literacy skills including Alphabet Knowledge (measured by letter naming) and Print Awareness in kindergarten and reading abilities in the 1st grade. Slower processors had poorer reading comprehension and fluency skills, and faster processors had stronger comprehension and fluency skills. Slower processors also displayed weaker Decoding skills than faster processors (Shaul & Nevo, 2015).
  • Bosse and colleagues (2015) investigated the relationship between Visual Processing skills and orthographic learning in a group of French children (n = 88) in the 3rd to 5th grades. Orthographic knowledge refers to knowledge of how to represent spoken language in its written form, and Alphabet Knowledge is an important component of that. They examined the acquisition of orthographic knowledge using pseudowords. Their results indicated that gaining orthographic knowledge was aided by the ability to process an entire string of letters at once. Also, they discussed that Decoding depends on the successful mapping of visual input to phonological information.

Contextual Factors

  • Connor and colleagues (2005) examined the impact of teachers’ warmth and responsivity (based on a trained observer rating teacher-child interactions in the classroom) on children’s Vocabulary and Decoding skills over the course of their 1st grade year. They found that students who had teachers who were rated as being more warm and responsive had significantly better Vocabulary and Decoding skills relative to students whose teachers scored lower on these variables.

References

Arrington, C. N., Kulesz, P. A., Francis, D. J., Fletcher, J. M., & Barnes, M. A. (2014). The contribution of attentional control and working memory to reading comprehension and decoding. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(5), 325-346.

Bosse, M. L., Chaves, N., Largy, P., & Valdois, S. (2015). Orthographic learning during reading: the role of whole‐word visual processing. Journal of Research in Reading, 38(2), 141-158.

Connor, C. M., Son, S. H., Hindman, A. H., & Morrison, F. J. (2005). Teacher qualifications, classroom practices, family characteristics, and preschool experience: Complex effects on first graders’ vocabulary and early reading outcomes. Journal of School Psychology, 43(4), 343-375.

Dice, J. L., & Schwanenflugel, P. (2012). A structural model of the effects of preschool attention on kindergarten literacy. Reading and Writing, 25(9), 2205-2222.

Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, L. M. (1997). Peabody picture vocabulary test (3rd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Stahl, S. A., & Willows, D. M. (2001). Systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 71(3), 393-447.

García, J. R., & Cain, K. (2013). Decoding and reading comprehension: A meta-analysis to identify which reader and assessment characteristics influence the strength of the relationship in English. Review of Educational Research, 84(1), 74-111.

Good, R.H., & Kaminski, R. A. (Eds.) (2002). Dynamic indicators of basic early literacy skills (6th ed.). Eugene, OR: Institute for the Development of Educational Achievement.

Green, L. (2009). Morphology and literacy: Getting our heads in the game. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools40(3), 283-285.

Kendeou, P., Van den Broek, P., White, M. J., & Lynch, J. S. (2009). Predicting reading comprehension in early elementary school: The independent contributions of oral language and decoding skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(4), 765-778.

Kibby, M. Y. (2009). There are multiple contributors to the verbal short-term memory deficit in children with developmental reading disabilities. Child Neuropsychology15(5), 485-506.

Nagy, W., Berninger, V., Abbott, R., Vaughan, K., & Vermeulen, K. (2003). Relationship of morphology and other language skills to literacy skills in at-risk second-grade readers and at-risk fourth-grade writers. Journal of Educational Psychology95(4), 730-742.

Ouellette, G. P. (2006). What’s meaning got to do with it: The role of vocabulary in word reading and reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(3), 554-566.

Papadopoulos, T. C., Das, J. P., Parrila, R. K., & Kirby, J. R. (2003). Children at-risk for developing reading difficulties: A remediation study. School Psychology International, 24(3), 340-366.

Reynolds, C. R., & Kamphaus, R. W. (1992). Behavior assessment system for children (BASC). Circle Pines, MN: AGS.

Schwanenflugel, P. J., Hamilton, C. E., Neuharth-Pritchett, S., Restrepo, M. A., Bradley, B. A., & Webb, M.-Y. (2010). PAVEd for Success: An evaluation of a comprehensive literacy program for 4-year-old children. Journal of Literacy Research, 42, 227–275.

Shaul, S., & Nevo, E. (2015). Different speed of processing levels in childhood and their contribution to early literacy and reading abilities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 32, 193-203.

Williams, K. T. (1997). Expressive vocabulary test. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

Woodcock, R.W. (1998). WRMT-R: Woodcock reading mastery tests revised. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Services.

Yanosky, D. (2005). Paper presented at the Georgia Educational Research Association Annual Meeting. Athens, Georgia.

Yanosky, D., Kamphaus, R. W., & Schwanenflugel, P. J. (2013). Psychometric properties of a proposed short form of the BASC teacher rating scale – Preschool. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 31(4), 351-362.


Print Awareness

Print Awareness is an essential early literacy skill and refers to understanding the forms, functions, and conventions of print (Justice & Ezell, 2001). Children with Print Awareness understand that text represents spoken language, understand that print conveys meaning (print functions), understand reading conventions (e.g., in English, lines of print are read left to right, and text begins at the top of a page and ends at the bottom), know how to handle books properly (e.g., how to turn the page properly), and are familiar with book elements such as the cover and author. Knowledge of print forms is also essential, including Alphabet Knowledge, the knowledge that words and letters are distinguishable, the knowledge that letters can be upper- or lowercase, and recognizing punctuation units.

Assessments

  • Preschool Word and Print Awareness (PWPA) Protocol (Justice & Ezell, 2001): The examiner asks the child questions about 14 print-related concepts.
  • Concepts About Print (CAP) Test (Clay, 2014): A 24-item informal assessment of Print Awareness for students in kindergarten and 1st grade. Four booklets with unusual features can be used to assess both pre- and post-kindergarten or 1st-grade Print Awareness skills. The teacher asks the child to identify and explain the unusual features.

Learner Factor Connections

  • Alphabet Knowledge: Familiarity with letter names, forms, and corresponding sounds
    • Alphabet Knowledge is essential to understanding print forms, a part of Print Awareness.
  • Home Literacy Environment (HLE): The environment the family provides to help a child gain precursors of reading/spelling skills including access to reading materials and exposure to reading/literacy concepts
    • Children who are raised in a weaker HLE have fewer opportunities to build Print Awareness at home, through activities like parents reading books to them, and are therefore more likely to have weak Print Awareness skills upon entering kindergarten.
  • Phonological Awareness: The knowledge of and ability to manipulate and detect sounds in words
    • Students with weak Phonological Awareness skills often have difficulties with Print Awareness.
  • Socioeconomic Status (SES): A combination of factors including education and income of a family compared to other families
    • Children from low-income homes often have weaker Print Awareness skills entering kindergarten compared to children from higher income homes, likely due to interaction of SES and HLE (see above).
  • Speed of Processing: The time it takes to perceive information, process it, and/or formulate or enact a response
    • A faster Speed of Processing helps students develop Print Awareness skills.

Research Findings

  • Children from low-income homes (part of SES) who are entering kindergarten often have weaker Print Awareness skills than those from middle- or high-income homes (Justice & Ezell, 2002), which has been attributed to the Home Literacy Environment. Children from low-income homes often are raised in a poorer Home Literacy Environment, resulting in fewer opportunities to build Print Awareness at home (e.g., less time is spent reading books to children due to the economic pressures that low-income families face).
  • Children with oral language deficits are very likely to have difficulty with Print Awareness and other early literacy skills such as Phonological Awareness, Alphabet Knowledge, and Vocabulary (Lovelace & Stewart, 2007).
  • Shaul and Nevo (2015) examined the relationship between Speed of Processing (measured using rapid automatic naming) and reading skills. They tested a group of 96 kindergarteners on measures of Print Awareness, Alphabet Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, and rapid naming speed. Then they tested the same group of children a year later on measures of rapid automatic naming and reading skills (Decoding, fluency, and comprehension). Speed of Processing ability was a strong predictor of early literacy skills including Alphabet Knowledge (measured by letter naming) and Print Awareness in kindergarten and reading abilities in the 1st grade. Slower processors have poorer reading comprehension and fluency skills, and faster processors have good comprehension and fluency skills. Slower processors also displayed weaker Decoding skills than faster processors.

Several studies have examined interventions to improve Print Awareness in children who have weaker Print Awareness skills. Many studies have found that a shared storybook reading intervention is very effective for building early literacy skills such as Print Awareness. In these interventions, the adult can build Print Awareness by using non-verbal cues like following the text with their finger and actively discussing print concepts with the child while they are reading. These interventions can be implemented at home by parents/caregivers, in the classroom by teachers, or by speech pathologists for those children who require language therapy. These studies are detailed below.

  • Lefebvre, Trudeau, and Sutton (2011) examined the efficacy of two shared storybook reading interventions, one that also targeted Phonological Awareness along with language and Print Awareness and one that did not, with low-income preschoolers. They found that the intervention with Phonological Awareness significantly improved Print Awareness skills, along with Phonological Awareness and Vocabulary. Also, after the intervention that included Phonological Awareness skill building, the children from low-income homes outperformed a group of children from higher-income homes on measures of Print Awareness, Phonological Awareness, and Vocabulary.
  • Lovelace and Stewart (2007) examined individualized therapy specifically targeting print concepts in shared storybook reading conducted in the classroom environment by speech pathologists in a group of 4- to 5-year-old children with language impairments. They found significant improvement in Print Awareness skills over the course of 13 weeks.
  • McGinty and colleagues (2011) implemented a 30-week intervention targeting Print Awareness in 55 preschool classrooms. This intervention focused on print referencing strategies where the teacher conducted large-group shared reading sessions either two or four times weekly. In each session, the teacher addressed two print targets (e.g., discussing print meaning, letter forms, or Vocabulary words). The authors concluded that increasing either dose frequency (the number of sessions per week) or dose (the number of print-referencing strategies used per session) can make the intervention more effective at improving Print Knowledge; however increasing both had a diminishing benefit.

References

Clay, M. M. (2014). Stones: The concepts about print test. Auckland, NZ: Heinemann Education Systems.

Justice, L. M., & Ezell, H. K. (2001). Word and print awareness in 4-year-old children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 17(3), 207-225.

Justice, L. M., & Ezell, H. K. (2002). Use of storybook reading to increase print awareness in at-risk children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 11(1), 17-29.

Lefebvre, P., Trudeau, N., & Sutton, A. (2011). Enhancing vocabulary, print awareness and phonological awareness through shared storybook reading with low-income preschoolers. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11(4), 453-479.

Lovelace, S., & Stewart, S. R. (2007). Increasing print awareness in preschoolers with language impairment using non-evocative print referencing. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 38(1), 16-30.

McGinty, A. S., Breit-Smith, A., Fan, X., Justice, L. M., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2011). Does intensity matter? Preschoolers’ print knowledge development within a classroom-based intervention. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26(3), 255-267.

Shaul, S., & Nevo, E. (2015). Different speed of processing levels in childhood and their contribution to early literacy and reading abilities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 32, 193-203.


Sight Recognition

Sight Recognition refers to recognizing a word by sight rather than needing to decode the word. The term “sight words” can be used to refer to words that do not conform to rules of phonetic Decoding (e.g., light, could, was, said) and must be recognized by sight because they cannot be sounded out phonetically. Being able to recognize words by sight, rather than needing to decode them, improves reading fluency and efficiency (Johnston, 2000). In this process, as soon as the word is fixated, the meaning and pronunciation of the word are automatically activated (Ehri, 1995). This requires sight words to be stored in Long-term Memory in order to be retrieved during reading (Ehri, 2014).

Assessments

  • Dolch Sight Words List: Contains 220 common words and 95 high frequency nouns
  • Instant Word List (Fry & Kress, 2006): Contains 300 words that make up about 65% of all written material

Learner Factor Connections

  • Long-term Memory: The ability to hold information for a long period of time, and possibly indefinitely
    • Sight words are stored in Long-term Memory in order to be accessed during reading.
  • Primary Language: The child’s language that they have been exposed to from birth
    • Students attending school taught not in their Primary Language have less exposure to this language and therefore have a lower rate of Sight Recognition and acquisition of sight words in this language.
  • Vocabulary: Includes both the lexical representations of stored sounds (word forms) and the semantic meaning associated with each of those stored sounds. Vocabulary breadth refers to the number of different words of which a student has at least a surface-level knowledge.
    • Vocabulary breadth is predictive of Sight Recognition skills.

Research Findings

  • Griffin and Murtagh (2015) examined the impact of an eight week Precision Teaching (PT) intervention program on Sight Recognition, as well as reading fluency and reading comprehension, in a group of elementary school students (age range = 7.4 to 12.2 years) in Ireland who were struggling with reading. PT intervention involves five steps: (1) the teacher defines a learning objective, (2) materials are developed targeting the skill of interest, (3) the student’s performance is monitored for a limited time period, (4) the data are plotted on a child-friendly chart, and (5) the chart is used by the teacher and the student to review performance. The group of students in the PT program showed a significant increase in sight Vocabulary relative to the control group. The experimental group also showed significant increases in reading fluency and comprehension.
  • Burns and Helman (2009) examined the relationship between English oral language proficiency and acquisition rate of sight words among a population of 2nd grade dual language learners (part of Primary Language) from Hmong-speaking households. Students were grouped into low, middle, and high English proficiency groups. A significant correlation was found between oral proficiency in English and acquisition rate where students in the low proficiency group demonstrated a significantly smaller acquisition rate relative to the students in the middle and high proficiency groups. The authors proposed that children with limited English proficiency have less experience with the sight words and thus had more difficulty learning at the same rate as students with better English proficiency.
  • Ouellette (2006) found that expressive Vocabulary breadth predicted visual word recognition skills in a group of typically developing 4th grade students. Vocabulary breadth refers to the number of lexical entries, whereas Vocabulary depth refers to the extent of semantic representation. However, receptive Vocabulary depth was predictive of Decoding performance (the ability to apply knowledge of the relationship between letters and their corresponding sounds).

References

Burns, M. K., & Helman, L. A. (2009). Relationship between language skills and acquisition rate of sight words among English language learners. Literacy Research and Instruction, 48(3), 221-232.

Ehri, L. C. (2014). Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 5-21.

Ehri, L.C. (1995). Stages of development in learning to read words by sight. Journal of Research in Reading, 18(2), 116-125.

Fry, E. B., & Kress, J. E. (2006). The reading teacher’s book of lists (5th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Griffin, C. P., & Murtagh, L. (2015). Increasing the sight vocabulary and reading fluency of children requiring reading support: The use of a Precision Teaching approach. Educational Psychology in Practice, 31(2), 186-209.

Johnston, F. R. (2000). Word learning in predictable text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(2), 248-255.

Ouellette, G. P. (2006). What’s meaning got to do with it: The role of vocabulary in word reading and reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(3), 554-566.

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