Authors: Elhassan Zena, Crewther Sheila G., Bavin Edith.

Article: The Contribution of Phonological Awareness to Reading Fluency and Its Individual Sub-skills in Readers Aged 9- to 12-years.

Publication: Frontiers in Psychology (Frontiers). Vol 8, p. 533 2017 | DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00533

[Full Text]


Research examining phonological awareness (PA) contributions to reading in established readers of different skill levels is limited. The current study examined the contribution of PA to phonological decoding, visual word recognition, reading rate, and reading comprehension in 124 fourth to sixth grade children (aged 9–12 years). On the basis of scores on the FastaReada measure of reading fluency participants were allocated to one of three reading ability categories: dysfluent (n = 47), moderate (n = 38) and fluent (n = 39). For the dysfluent group, PA contributed significantly to all reading measures except rate, but in the moderate group only to phonological decoding. PA did not influence performances on any of the reading measures examined for the fluent reader group. The results support the notion that fluency is characterized by a shift from conscious decoding to rapid and accurate visual recognition of words. Although PA may be influential in reading development, the results of the current study show that it is not sufficient for fluent reading.


Excerpts from Full Text:


In dysfluent readers PA skills predicted significant variance in phonological decoding (46.8%), visual word recognition (17.9%), and reading comprehension (14.9%) but not reading rate. In moderate readers PA explained 10.2% of the variance in phonological decoding but it did not contribute significantly to the three other reading tasks. For fluent readers, PA skills did not contribute significant variance to any of the four reading measures.


As shown in Figure 3, there was a positive association between PA scores and reading fluency. However, two of the five readers who reached ceiling on the PA assessment were dysfluent (one from Grade 4, and one from Grade 5). Conversely, the two poorest performers on the PA assessment, who scored only 15 out of 40, were moderate readers (one from Grade 4, and one from Grade 6).


However, while PA is an established important predictor of early reading development, it is unclear if it continues to predict reading outcomes in fluent readers. The general finding is that once a child is able to read fluently, PA skills do not, overall, contribute significantly to measures of reading.


Phonological decoding scores were most influenced by PA skills, followed by visual word recognition, and reading comprehension. This finding implies that dysfluent readers rely more heavily on a decoding strategy for real words that involves segmenting and blending phonemes than moderate and fluent readers. Over-reliance on such a strategy would be expected to lead to errors when reading irregular words. It would also influence the rate of reading as conscious phonological decoding of words is a slower reading strategy than visual word recognition.


By examining the relationship between PA and reading skills for different reading fluency groups, it was found that although PA may be influential in the development of reading skills, it alone is not sufficient for an individual to become a skilled reader. The current study also identified a possible differentiating factor between moderate and fluent readers – the ability to read novel words without reliance on a conscious decoding strategy.

Tagged as: fluency and phonemic awareness