The acquisition of word identification skills in beginning readers
LE3 .A278 2003
Master of Science
A word learning paradigm was used to investigate the strategies used by 6-7 year old children during reading acquisition. The children were initially tested on measures of reading ability, phonological skills, orthographic processes, and paired associate learning. Four subsequent sessions involved training the children to read words that differed in regularity and level of semantics over five trials. The children learned to read words that followed spelling-sound correspondence rules (e.g., 'snake') more easily than words that did not (e.g., 'sword'), In addition, there was an effect of semantics--children learned concrete words (e.g., ' '). Contrary to predictions suggested by Plaut, McClelland, Seidenberg, & Patterson's (1996) connectionist model, the influence of semantics on overall learning did not vary as a function of word type. Moreover, analysis of initial learning revealed a trend for the semantic influence to be greater for concrete words, whereas at later trials the benefit of a rich semantic representation and regular spelling-sound correspondence appeared to be independent and additive. Regression analyses investigated the roles that the individual measures played in the acquisition of regular and irregular words. Phonological skills were found to account for unique variance in regular word reading, whereas paired associate learning accounted for unique variance in irregular word reading, These results suggest that phonological skills reflect children's ability to learn words that have systematic correspondences between letters and sounds and that their paired associate learning skills reflect their ability to read words where the mappings between the letters and sounds are more arbitrary.
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