Emergence of the neural network for reading in five-year-old beginning readers of different levels of pre-literacy abilities: an fMRI study.
ABSTRACT: The present study traced the emergence of the neural circuits for reading in five-year-old children of diverse pre-literacy ability. In the fall and winter of kindergarten, children performed a one-back task with letter versus false font stimuli during fMRI scanning. At the start of kindergarten, children with on-track pre-literacy skills (OT) recruited bilateral temporo-parietal regions for the letter > false font comparison. In contrast, children at-risk for reading difficulty (AR) showed no differential activation in this region. Following 3 months of kindergarten and, for AR children, supplemental reading instruction, OT children showed left-lateralized activation in the temporo-parietal region, whereas AR children showed bilateral activation and recruitment of frontal regions including the anterior cingulate cortex. These data suggest that typical reading development is associated with initial recruitment and subsequent disengagement of right hemisphere homologous regions while atypical reading development may be associated with compensatory recruitment of frontal regions.
Project description:According to the Home Literacy Model (Sénéchal and LeFevre, 2002, 2014), young children can be exposed to two distinct types of literacy activities at home. First, meaning-related literacy activities are those where print is present but is not the focus of the parent-child interaction, for example, when parents read storybooks to their children. In contrast, code-related literacy activities focus on the print, for example, activities such as when parents teach their children the names and sounds of letters or to read words. The present study was conducted to expand the Home Literacy Model by examining its relation with children's engagement in literacy activities at home and at school as Finnish children transitioned from kindergarten to Grades 1 and 2. Two facets of children's engagement were examined, namely, children's independent reading at home and their interest in literacy activities. Children (N = 378) were tested and interviewed at the ends of kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2. Mothers completed questionnaires on their home literacy activities at each test time, and they reported the frequency with which their children read independently twice when children were in grade school. Tested was a longitudinal model of the hypothesized relations among maternal home literacy activities (shared reading and teaching of reading), children's reading skills, independent reading, and their interest in literacy activities/tasks as children progressed from kindergarten to Grade 2. Stringent path analyses that included all auto-regressors were conducted. Findings extended previous research in four ways. First, the frequency of shared reading and teaching of reading at home predicted the frequency of children's independent reading 1 year later. Second, children with stronger early literacy skills in kindergarten read independently more frequently once they were in Grade 1. Third, parents adapted, from kindergarten to Grade 1, their teaching behaviors to their children's progress in reading, whereas shared reading decreased over time. Fourth, children's own reports of interest in literacy activities were mostly not linked to other variables. Taken together, these results add another layer to the Home Literacy Model.
Project description:Reading speed is dramatically reduced when readers cannot use their central vision. This is because low visual acuity and crowding negatively impact letter recognition in the periphery. In this study, we designed a new font (referred to as the Eido font) in order to reduce inter-letter similarity and consequently to increase peripheral letter recognition performance. We tested this font by running five experiments that compared the Eido font with the standard Courier font. Letter spacing and x-height were identical for the two monospaced fonts. Six normally-sighted subjects used exclusively their peripheral vision to run two aloud reading tasks (with eye movements), a letter recognition task (without eye movements), a word recognition task (without eye movements) and a lexical decision task. Results show that reading speed was not significantly different between the Eido and the Courier font when subjects had to read single sentences with a round simulated gaze-contingent central scotoma (10° diameter). In contrast, Eido significantly decreased perceptual errors in peripheral crowded letter recognition (-30% errors on average for letters briefly presented at 6° eccentricity) and in peripheral word recognition (-32% errors on average for words briefly presented at 6° eccentricity).
Project description:During the last years, digital writing devices are increasingly replacing handwriting with pencil and paper. As reading and writing skills are central for education, it is important to know, which writing tool is optimal for initial literacy education. The present training study was therefore set up to test the influence of the writing tool on the acquisition of literacy skills at the letter and word level with various tests in a large sample of kindergarten children (n = 147). Using closely matched letter learning games, children were trained with 16 letters by handwriting with a pencil on a sheet of paper, by writing with a stylus on a tablet computer, or by typing letters using a virtual keyboard on a tablet across 7 weeks. Training using a stylus on a touchscreen is an interesting comparison condition for traditional handwriting, because the slippery surface of a touchscreen has lower friction than paper and thus increases difficulty of motor control. Before training, immediately after training and four to five weeks after training, we assessed reading and writing performance using standardized tests. We also assessed visuo-spatial skills before and after training, in order to test, whether the different training regimens affected cognitive domains other than written language. Children of the pencil group showed superior performance in letter recognition and improved visuo-spatial skills compared with keyboard training. The performance of the stylus group did not differ significantly neither from the keyboard nor from the pencil group. Keyboard training, however, resulted in superior performance in word writing and reading compared with handwriting training with a stylus on the tablet, but not compared with the pencil group. Our results suggest that handwriting with pencil fosters acquisition of letter knowledge and improves visuo-spatial skills compared with keyboarding. At least given the current technological state, writing with a stylus on a touchscreen seems to be the least favorable writing tool, possibly because of increased demands on motor control. Future training studies covering a more extended observation period over years are needed to allow conclusions about long-term effects of writing tools on literacy acquisition as well as on general cognitive development.
Project description:Reading deficits are a common early feature of the degenerative syndrome posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) but are poorly understood even at the single word level. The current study evaluated the reading accuracy and speed of 26 PCA patients, 17 typical Alzheimer's disease (tAD) patients and 14 healthy controls on a corpus of 192 single words in which the following perceptual properties were manipulated systematically: inter-letter spacing, font size, length, font type, case and confusability. PCA reading was significantly less accurate and slower than tAD patients and controls, with performance significantly adversely affected by increased letter spacing, size, length and font (cursive < non-cursive), and characterised by visual errors (69% of all error responses). By contrast, tAD and control accuracy rates were at or near ceiling, letter spacing was the only perceptual factor to influence reading speed in the same direction as controls, and, in contrast to PCA patients, control reading was faster for larger font sizes. The inverse size effect in PCA (less accurate reading of large than small font size print) was associated with lower grey matter volume in the right superior parietal lobule. Reading accuracy was associated with impairments of early visual (especially crowding), visuoperceptual and visuospatial processes. However, these deficits were not causally related to a universal impairment of reading as some patients showed preserved reading for small, unspaced words despite grave visual deficits. Rather, the impact of specific types of visual dysfunction on reading was found to be (con)text specific, being particularly evident for large, spaced, lengthy words. These findings improve the characterisation of dyslexia in PCA, shed light on the causative and associative factors, and provide clear direction for the development of reading aids and strategies to maximise and sustain reading ability in the early stages of disease.
Project description:This study assessed the efficacy of PASSI (Promoting the Achievement of Sound-Sign Integration), an intervention to improve children's conceptual knowledge of the Italian writing system in kindergarten, which is an emergent literacy predictor of reading and spelling acquisition focused on letter-speech sound integration. PASSI implements an embedded-explicit approach in which teachers target specific subskills (reflection on the graphic, symbolic and phonological aspect of written signs) and emphasize children's contextualized interactions with oral and written language. One hundred fifty-nine Italian children participated in this study. Six teachers (and their three respective classes) were randomly assigned to the experimental group, and six teachers were assigned to the control group. All children were tested on the invented spelling of words and numbers, knowledge of the alphabet, orthographic awareness, and drawing twice, before and after the intervention. Children's visual-motor integration skills were also assessed as a control variable. The data were analyzed through the complex samples general linear model (GLM) approach. The results confirmed the efficacy of PASSI in promoting children's conceptual knowledge of the writing system and related emergent literacy skills. Theoretical and educational implications of the results are presented and discussed.
Project description:Previous research has established that learning to read improves children's performance on reading-related phonological tasks, including phoneme awareness (PA) and nonword repetition. Few studies have investigated whether literacy acquisition also promotes children's rapid automatized naming (RAN). We tested the hypothesis that literacy acquisition should influence RAN in an international, longitudinal population sample of twins. Cross-lagged path models evaluated the relationships among literacy, PA, and RAN across four time points from pre-kindergarten through grade 4. Consistent with previous research, literacy showed bidirectional relationships with reading-related oral language skills. We found novel evidence for an effect of earlier literacy on later RAN, which was most evident in children at early phases of literacy development. In contrast, the influence of earlier RAN on later literacy was predominant among older children. These findings imply that the association between these two related skills is moderated by development. Implications for models of reading development and for dyslexia research are discussed.
Project description:Phonological awareness, letter knowledge, oral language (including sentence recall) and rapid automatised naming are acknowledged within-child predictors of literacy development. Separate research has identified family factors including socio-economic status, parents' level of education and family history. However, both approaches have left unexplained significant amounts of variance in literacy outcomes. This longitudinal study sought to improve prospective classification accuracy for young children at risk of literacy failure by adding two new family measures (parents' phonological awareness and parents' perceived self-efficacy), and then combining the within-child and family factors.Pre-literacy skills were measured in 102 four year olds (46 girls and 56 boys) at the beginning of Preschool, and then at the beginning and end of Kindergarten, when rapid automatised naming was also measured. Family factors data were collected at the beginning of Preschool, and children's literacy outcomes were measured at the end of Year 1 (age 6-7 years).Children from high-risk backgrounds showed poorer literacy outcomes than low-risk students, though three family factors (school socio-economic status, parents' phonological awareness, and family history) typically accounted for less Year 1 variance than the within-child factors. Combining these family factors with the end of Kindergarten within-child factors provided the most accurate classification (i.e., sensitivity?=?.85; specificity?=?.90; overall correct?=?.88).Our approach would identify at-risk children for intervention before they began to fail. Moreover, it would be cost-effective because although few at-risk children would be missed, allocation of unnecessary educational resources would be minimised.
Project description:While behavioral and educational data characterize a fourth grade shift in reading development, neuroscience evidence is relatively lacking. We used the N400 component of the event-related potential waveform to investigate the development of single word processing across the upper elementary years, in comparison to adult readers. We presented third graders, fourth graders, fifth graders, and college students with a well-controlled list of real words, pseudowords, letter strings, false font strings, and animal name targets. Words and pseudowords elicited similar N400s across groups. False font strings elicited N400s similar to words and letter strings in the three groups of children, but not in college students. The pattern of findings suggests relatively adult-like semantic and phonological processing by third grade, but a long developmental time course, beyond fifth grade, for orthographic processing in this context. Thus, the amplitude of the N400 elicited by various word-like stimuli does not reflect some sort of shift or discontinuity in word processing around the fourth grade. However, the results do suggest different developmental time courses for the processes that contribute to automatic single word reading and the integrative N400.
Project description:The purpose of this longitudinal study was to examine the role of three morphological awareness (MA) skills (inflection, derivation, and compounding) in word reading fluency and reading comprehension in a relatively transparent orthography (Greek). Two hundred and fifteen (104 girls; Mage = 67.40 months, at kindergarten) Greek children were followed from kindergarten (K) to grade 2 (G2). In K and grade 1 (G1), they were tested on measures of MA (two inflectional, two derivational, and three compounding), letter knowledge, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming (RAN), and general cognitive ability (vocabulary and non-verbal IQ). At the end of G1 and G2, they were also tested on word reading fluency and reading comprehension. The results of hierarchical regression analyses showed that the inflectional and derivational aspects of MA in K as well as all aspects of MA in G1 accounted for 2-5% of unique variance in reading comprehension. None of the MA skills predicted word reading fluency, after controlling for the effects of vocabulary and RAN. These findings suggest that the MA skills, even when assessed as early as in kindergarten, play a significant role in reading comprehension development.
Project description:Better understanding the mechanisms underlying developing literacy has promoted the development of more effective reading interventions for typically developing children. Such knowledge may facilitate effective instruction of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. Hence, the current study examined the multivariate associations among phonological awareness, alphabetic knowledge, word reading, and vocabulary skills in DHH children who have auditory access to speech. One hundred and sixty-seven DHH children (M age = 60.43 months) were assessed with a battery of early literacy measures. Forty-six percent used at least 1 cochlear implant; 54% were fitted with hearing aids. About a fourth of the sample was acquiring both spoken English and sign. Scores on standardized tests of phonological awareness and vocabulary averaged at least 1 standard deviation (SD) below the mean of the hearing norming sample. Confirmatory factor analyses showed that DHH children's early literacy skills were best characterized by a complex 3-factor model in which phonological awareness, alphabetic knowledge, and vocabulary formed 3 separate, but highly correlated constructs, with letter-sound knowledge and word reading skills relating to both phonological awareness and alphabetic knowledge. This supports the hypothesis that early reading of DHH children with functional hearing is qualitatively similar to that of hearing children.