The development of skills associated with early reading success
This thesis investigates the development of phonological awareness, rapid serial naming, speed of learning verbal/visual symbol associations, letter knowledge and verbal short-term memory in children aged 4.0 to 5.5 years and the relationship of these skills to reading ability at age 5.5 years. Data from a longitudinal study of 68 children are analysed and discussed. A review of the literature suggests uncertainties concerning the structure and development of phonological awareness. The current study measures phonological awareness at the linguistic levels of rhyme, syllable, onset-rime and phoneme and investigates whether the various skills comprise a unitary construct. Developmental pathways through the linguistic levels are also investigated. Most previous research investigating the relationship of phonological awareness, verbal short-term memory, letter knowledge and rapid naming with reading ability focuses on the skills of children who have already started learning to read. In such cases, the predictive direction of any relationships cannot be established. The current study therefore also investigates longitudinally predictive relationships between the skills of non-readers and subsequent reading ability. At initial testing, all children were non-readers. Progress in skills was assessed at three time points as children progressed through their first year at school. Reading ability was measured at the end of the study. The results suggest that phonological awareness is a unitary, developmental construct within which most children follow similar developmental patterns, although some children exhibit considerable developmental lag. The phonological awareness and letter knowledge of non-readers were found to be the major significant predictors of subsequent reading ability. In rapid serial naming, the component elements of interstimulus interval (ISI) time and articulation time were measured independently. The results suggest that the ISI component is significantly associated with concurrent reading ability in children aged 5.0 to 5.5 years. The educational implications of the research findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.