Phonological awareness : influences and associates in the context of the development of word reading in young children
This thesis sets out to investigate aspects of the development of phonological awareness in relation to word reading in children aged between 5- and 7-years. The principal aim has been to establish how, for these children, phonological awareness relates to other cognitive factors that might jointly support the development of early reading skills. Data derives from children in their first three years of formal education (aged 5- to 7-years) and a group of partially-hearing children aged 7-years. The children's performance in a measure of categorical speech have been compared with their levels of implicit phonological awareness. The results do not indicate that phonological awareness is significantly associated with children's ability to categorise speech sounds. Following this investigations have been conducted to determine the extent to which implicit phonological awareness is affected by working memory and lexical knowledge. It emerges that memory is implicated in the phonological awareness tasks, but is not a developmental antecedent. The phonological similarity effect is also studied and not found to relate to age or reading ability in hearing or partially-hearing children. Aspects of the working memory model are discussed in relation to children's performance in tests of word recognition and phonological awareness. In the penultimate chapter children's lexical knowledge (vocabulary) is found to interact with their performance in the measure of memory span. It appears that the development of the awareness of initial phonemes may be facilitated by having limited memory processing space. Overall it was found that lexical knowledge was predictive of phonological awareness. This conclusion was supported by a finding that the partially-hearing children had poorer lexical knowledge than younger hearing children with levels of phonological awareness similar to the partially-hearing children. The findings in that chapter also indicate that phonological awareness and lexical knowledge may make separable contributions to word reading. In the final chapter structural equation modelling of 'Reading' is undertaken in order to establish how phonological awareness, memory span and lexical knowledge together relate to word reading. The findings there confirm the covariance of phonological awareness, memory span and lexical knowledge, but also suggest that, in contrast to other research findings, these factors may not always be clearly related to word reading. The study has also elicited some information about the likely difficulties of partially hearing children who were here not found to have good levels of phonological awareness or lexical knowledge. In the final chapter it is suggested that further work should be undertaken to study partially-hearing children to establish how reading develops in the absence of age-appropriate levels of phonological awareness and lexical knowledge.