Karin Landerl, H. Harald Freudenthaler, Moritz Heene, Peter F. De Jong, Alain Desrochers, George Manolitsis, Rauno Parrila & George K. Georgiou (2018): Phonological Awareness and Rapid Automatized Naming as Longitudinal Predictors of Reading in Five Alphabetic Orthographies with Varying Degrees of Consistency, Scientific Studies of Reading, DOI: 10.1080/10888438.2018.1510936

Phonological awareness (PA) and rapid automatized naming (RAN) are two common indicators associated with children’s reading development. PA involves the ability to perceive and comprehend sounds and syllables in words, whereas RAN refers to the ability to quickly recognize and understand written words, pictures, and numbers. These are both distinctive mechanisms children use when they are learning to read that connect spoken and written language. In the English language, certain patterns have been established in regard to PA and RAN. However, it is still yet to be determined if these patterns hold true for other languages. In this study, researchers looked at children learning to read in 5 languages: English, French, German, Dutch, and Greek. Their main research question regarded whether or not a universal model existed for predicting later reading using PA and RAN.

For the study, 1,043 students were followed longitudinally from the beginning of grade 1 to the end of grade 2 (148 English; 240 French; 330 German; 106 Dutch; 219 Greek). None of the students had learning, emotional, or sensory disabilities. To test their abilities, 3 measures were used for this study: phonemic awareness, rapid automatized naming, and reading fluency. Each had varying evidence-based tests that were used to determine the student’s performance. After all data were collected, the researchers performed an analysis involving a series of trial and error to find the best-fitting model for each language separately. This, they found, was able to account for differences in complexity across the languages.

Based on their analysis, the researchers were unable to come up with a universal model for prediction of reading development, meaning there were significant differences across orthographies. However, they did find that RAN seemed to be more similar across languages than PA was. This is consistent with other studies, which have suggested a kind of universal mechanism of RAN, independent of language. That being said, the researchers were not able to find evidence for the view that PA predicts reading the same across languages. What they did find was support for the view that PA is developed during, and not before, the reading process, as well as the belief that the relevance of PA increases with the complexity of the language. Due to this, PA may be less causal than once perceived. In sum, this study supports the argument that RAN is universal, while PA is not. Overall, this research is useful because it contributes to the existing literature on reading development, in an effort to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms used to learn to read.