The role of orthographic knowledge for reading performance in German elementary school children

  • Reading is crucial for successful participation in the modern world. However, 3-8% (e.g., Moll et al., 2014) of children in elementary school age show reading difficulties, which can lead to limited education and enhance risks of social and financial disadvantages (Valtin, 2017). Therefore, it is important to identify reading relevant components (Tippelt & Schmidt-Hertha, 2018). In this context, especially phonological awareness (i.e., awareness of the sound structure of the language) and naming speed (i.e., fast and automatized retrieval of information) were identified as significant components for reading skills (e.g., Georgiou et al., 2012; Landerl & Thaler, 2006; Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling, & Scanlon, 2004). One further component, which is of growing interest to the recent research, is orthographic knowledge. It comprises the knowledge about the spelling of specific words (word-specific orthographic knowledge) and about legal letter patterns (general orthographic knowledge; Apel, 2011). Previous research focused predominantly on examining the role of orthographic knowledge on basic reading level, including word identification and word meaning (Conrad et al., 2013; Rothe et al., 2015). The relationship between orthographic knowledge and reading comprehension as the core objective of reading, including understanding of the relationship between words within a sentence as well as building a coherence between sentences (Perfetti et al., 2005), was on the contrary scarcely the object of research. The first goal of this dissertation is, therefore, to provide a remedy by investigating the role of orthographic knowledge on higher reading processes (sentence- and text-level). The scarce body of research investigating children with reading difficulties provide a mixed result pattern (e.g., Ise et al., 2014). Therefore, this dissertation aims at clarifying the influence of orthographic knowledge on word-, sentence-, and text-level in children without and with reading difficulties. A thorough understanding of reading relevant components is also important for conception of interventions aiming at individual reading performance improvements in order to prevent school failure. One promising approach to help children to overcome their reading difficulties is a text-fading based reading training. During this procedure, reading material is faded out letter by letter in reading direction (i.e., in German from left to right; Breznitz & Nevat, 2006). The aim of this manipulation is to prompt the individual to read faster than usual, resulting in reading rate and comprehension improvements (e.g., Nagler et al., 2015). However, the underlying mechanisms leading to improvements of reading performance are still unclear. Considering previous findings showing orthographic skills to influence training outcomes (Berninger et al., 1999), and also word reading performance after a reading intervention (Stage et al., 2003), it seems plausible to include orthographic knowledge when investigating potential training effects. Therefore, this dissertation aims at investigating the predictive value of orthographic knowledge for comprehension performance during the text-fading based reading training. In order to answer the first research question, two empirical papers are implemented (see Appendix A: Zarić et al., 2020 and Appendix B: Zarić & Nagler, 2021), which investigate the role of orthographic knowledge for reading at word-, sentence-, and text-level in German school children without and with reading difficulties. The study by Zarić et al. (2020) examines the incremental predictive value for explained reading variance of both word-specific and general orthographic knowledge in relation to variance amount explained by general intelligence and phonological awareness. For this purpose, data from 66 German third-graders without reading difficulties were analyzed. Correlation and multiple regression analyses have shown that word-specific and general orthographic knowledge contribute a unique significant amount to the variance of reading comprehension on word-, sentence-, and text-level, over and above the explained variance by general intelligence and phonological awareness. In order to answer the question whether word-specific and general orthographic knowledge also explain variance in children with poor reading proficiency, in addition to established predictors phonological awareness and naming speed, the data from 103 German third-graders with reading difficulties were analyzed in a second study (Zarić & Nagler, 2021). The analyses revealed that word-specific and general orthographic knowledge explain a unique significant amount of the variance of reading on word- and sentence-level. On text-level, these two components did not explain a significant amount of unique variance. Here, only phonological awareness was shown to be a significant predictor. The results indicate that the knowledge about the spelling of specific words (word-specific orthographic knowledge) and the knowledge about legal letter patterns (general orthographic knowledge) contribute to reading comprehension on word-level. Following the assumptions, for instance, of the Lexical Quality Hypothesis (Perfetti & Hart, 2002) high-quality orthographic representations are considered to be important for higher reading processes, such as comprehension. ...

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Author:Jelena Zarić
URN:urn:nbn:de:hebis:30:3-614287
DOI:https://doi.org/10.21248/gups.61428
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Marcus Hasselhorn, Gerhard BüttnerGND
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Date of Publication (online):2021/07/02
Year of first Publication:2021
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2021/05/19
Release Date:2021/07/12
Page Number:190
HeBIS-PPN:484031287
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:3 Sozialwissenschaften / 37 Bildung und Erziehung / 370 Bildung und Erziehung
Sammlungen:Universitätspublikationen
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht