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Title: A longitudinal study of the predictors of reading in children from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds
Author: Balladares Hernández, Jaime
ISNI:       0000 0004 7661 2783
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Chilean students achieve poor results in international reading tests. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) evaluates the performance of students at age 15 from all OECD countries, through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). In this test, Chilean students perform significantly lower than average (OECD, 2013, 2016). Educational systems in which poor and rich children study together tend to reach higher scores in the PISA test than the ones in which students are social and economically segregated (OECD, 2013). However, the Chilean education system is segregated, with students likely to study with their peers from a similar socioeconomic background (Aguirre, 2009; Mizala & Torche, 2012). Among OECD countries, Chile is the one in which socioeconomic variables are most closely related to academic success (OECD, 2010). Given Chile's huge social stratification (Posner, 2012), only students from higher high-income backgrounds can access better educational provision (in fee-paying schools), whereas students whose families are unable to pay for education are likely to receive a lower quality of teaching in their schools (Castillo, 2011). As a result, significant differences in reading according to socioeconomic status (SES) are found. For instance, 69% of students from high-income families can be categorized as advanced readers, whereas just 20% of students from low-income backgrounds are placed in this category, according to the Chilean Ministry of Education (MINEDUC, 2007, 2013, 2014). While the effect of socioeconomic level on reading is accentuated in highly segregated countries such as Chile, it is possible to find differences in other countries too (Aikens & Barbarin, 2008; Arnold & Doctoroff, 2003; MINEDUC, 2007, 2013, 2014; OECD, 2013). In a study of 43 countries using the PISA database, SES was found to be a key predictor of reading achievement (Chiu & McBride-Chang, 2006). In a longitudinal study conducted in the United States, with 3rd grade students, rates of reading growth were found to be strongly affected by students' SES (Kieffer, 2011). In the case of the United Kingdom the situation is similar, and reading performance is related to SES not just in the school years, but also in adulthood (Ritchie & Bates, 2013). The reading gap between children from low and high SES groups starts at young age (A. Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder, 2013), and tends to widen through academic life (Walpole, 2003). In Chile, children already show significant differences in reading ability at age of 7 when they are compared by SES (MINEDUC, 2013, 2014). These differences are more accented when the students' reading performance is compared again at the age of 15 (OECD, 2013). In order to understand why differences in SES impact on children's reading outcomes at school, we must go one step further back and evaluate how the predictors of reading develop before children go to school. Three skills - phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and rapid automatic naming (RAN) - have been labelled as foundational predictors of reading (Caravolas, Lervag, Defior, Seidlova Malkova, & Hulme, 2013; Guardia, 2010; Hulme, Caravolas, Malkova, & Brigstocke, 2005; Jong & Vrielink, 2004; Mann, 1986; Muter, Hulme, Snowling, & Stevenson, 2004; Nation & Cocksey, 2009; Pallante & Kim, 2013; Savage & Frederickson, 2005; Wagner & Torgesen, 1987; P. Walton & Walton, 2002). While these are the three core predictors of reading in different languages, the process of learning to read is complex, and these predictors need to be understood as part of a set of variables (Hulme, Caravolas, et al., 2005; Muter et al., 2004) that also includes cognitive (domain general) skills (Cain & Oakhill, 1999; Farrington-Flint, Wood, Canobi, & Faulkner, 2004; Welsh, Nix, Blair, Bierman, & Nelson, 2010), vocabulary knowledge (Moghadam, Zainal, & Ghaderpour, 2012; Muter et al., 2004; Nation & Cocksey, 2009), and other social and environmental factors, such as home literacy environment (Burgess, Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002; Crain-Thoreson & Dale, 1992; Laplante et al., 2004; Mistry, White, Benner, & Huynh, 2009; Roberts, Jurgens, & Burchina, 2005; Weigel, Martin, & Bennet, 2006). There is strong evidence that this set of predictors contribute to the process of learning to read. While each of the listed variables contributes to explaining reading achievement, it is less clear whether these foundational, language, and cognitive skills are, in turn, affected by SES, particularly in terms of Home literacy environment. Understanding the contribution of these factors and evaluating the influence of socioeconomic status on them will allow future studies and interventions to be more precise about what aspects should be improved to decrease the academic gap between those children from low and high SES. These findings have implications both for theory and practice. In theoretical terms, they permit a clearer understanding of what happens before children learn to read in a non-English and monolingual context. In a practical sense, they provide information to promote the development of policies, plans and programs for minimizing the gap in reading between those children from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds, by offering teacher and parental support. The current study makes novel contributions in two areas. Firstly, it aims to evaluate whether Chilean preschoolers show SES differences in a large number of foundational skills for reading and, if so, to estimate the magnitude of these differences. Secondly, it aims to identify the contribution of those less studied predictors - which include cognitive skills, certain early language skills and the influence of the home literacy environment - to these same children's reading abilities when they are 7 years old.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available