Skilled readers can often make sense of words that include “typos” or jumbled letters as long as the beginning and end letters of the words are correct. A recent study by the University of Leicester suggests that young developing readers have a similar understanding of how these outside letters can help make sense of words.
The study also found that developing young readers and skilled adult readers had similar difficulty correctly recognizing anagrams that can form another word by switching the order of only the inside letters. Both age groups, however, found it equally easy to recognize anagrams when the outside letters also had to be switched around to form another word. The reason for this is that the brain has difficulty keeping track of the position of inside letters when recognizing words but assigns special importance to the outside letters.
These findings for anagram reading show for the first time that sensitivity to letter position, and privileged status of the exterior letters in words, is well established in young readers as well as more skilled readers. These findings are important for understanding the role of letter position in children’s word recognition, including in dyslexia. Further work is required to see how this fits in with the general process of reading.
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