Language Development and Learning to Read

The Scientific Study of How Language Development Affects Reading Skill

Research on reading has tried, and failed, to account for wide disparities in reading skill even among children taught by the same method. Why do some children learn to read easily and quickly while others, in the same classroom and taught by the same teacher, don't learn to read at all? In Language Development and Learning to Read, Diane McGuinness examines scientific research that might explain these disparities. She focuses on reading predictors, analyzing the effect individual differences in specific perceptual, linguistic, and cognitive skills may have on a child's ability to read. Because of the serious methodological problems she finds in the existing research on reading, many of the studies McGuinness cites come from other fields—developmental psychology, psycholinguistics, and the speech and hearing sciences—and provide a new perspective on which language functions matter most for reading and academic success.

McGuinness first examines the phonological development theory—the theory that phonological awareness follows a developmental path from words to syllables to phonemes—which has dominated reading research for thirty years, and finds that research evidence from other disciplines does not support the theory. McGuinness then looks at longitudinal studies on the development of general language function, and finds a "tantalizing connection" between core language functions and reading success. Finally, she analyzes mainstream reading research, which links reading ability to specific language skills, and the often flawed methodology used in these studies. McGuinness's analysis shows the urgent need for a shift in our thinking about how to achieve reading success.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. Introduction
  4. The Theory that Phonological Awareness Develops
  5. 1. The Origin of the Theory of Phonological Development
  6. 2. Development of Receptive Language in the First Year of Life
  7. 3. Speech Perception After 3
  8. 4. Links: Auditory Analysis, Speech Production, and Phonological Awareness
  9. 5. Young Children's Analysis of Language
  10. 6. What Is Phoneme Awareness and Does It Matter?
  11. Expressive Language, Reading, and Academic Skills
  12. 7. The Development of Expressive Language
  13. 8. The Impact of General Language Skills on Reading and Academic Success
  14. Direct Tests of the Language-Reading Relationship
  15. 9. An Introduction to Reading Research: Some Pitfalls
  16. 10. Auditory and Speech Perception and Reading
  17. 11. Methodological Issues in Research on General Language and Reading
  18. 12. Vocabulary and Reading
  19. 13. Verbal Memory and Reading
  20. 14. Syntax and Reading
  21. 15. Naming Speed and Reading
  22. 16. Slow Readers: How Slow Is Slow?
  23. 17. Summary: What Do We Know for Sure?
  24. Appendix 1: Methodological Problems in Studies by Tallal et al.
  25. Glossary
  26. References
  27. Author Index
  28. Subject Index