Seminar Series

Language skills and learning to read

When children come to the task of learning to read they usually have in place well-developed spoken language skills and to a large extent, learning to read requires children to learn to map between spoken language and written language. It follows from this that children's spoken language skills will be important factors shaping the development of skilled reading. Although previous work has shown that the status of a child's phonological processing system is a crucial variable predicting the ease with which they learn to read, little research has considered the role of language skills beyond phonology. The focus of this talk will be on a group of children who have specific reading comprehension difficulties in the face of normal decoding skills. Findings indicating that such children have poor vocabulary development coupled with weak syntactic awareness will be reviewed and data from auditory semantic priming tasks presented suggesting that poor comprehenders have semantic processing impairments. These findings will be discussed in relation to the hypothesis that the subtle language deficits observed in this group of children constrain their development of orthographic knowledge.