Sensitivity to auditory and visual stimuli during early reading development

King, Bernardine; Wood, Clare and Faulkner, Dorothy (2007). Sensitivity to auditory and visual stimuli during early reading development. Journal of Research in Reading, 30(4) pp. 443–453.



An investigation was conducted into the visual and auditory temporal processing profiles of two groups of 4- to 6-year-old children: pre-alphabetic children, who showed no alphabetic ability (failing to read any non-words in a test), and those who demonstrated some alphabetic ability. This alphabetic group showed higher scores in reading and spelling attainment than the pre-alphabetic group. They were also faster than the pre-alphabetic group in reacting to the onset and offset of auditory and visual stimuli. However, when age was used as a covariate, only reaction times (RTs) to the offsets of visual stimuli were found to be faster in the alphabetic than the pre-alphabetic group. This suggests that responses to the offset of visual stimuli are becoming more rapid during the same developmental period when alphabetic ability is beginning to be acquired. Within the alphabetic group, after accounting for age, visual and auditory onset RTs were strongly correlated, whereas within the pre-alphabetic group there were high correlations between visual and auditory offset RTs. It is therefore suggested that a strong association between RTs to visual and auditory onsets may be beneficial during early alphabetic acquisition, when phoneme-grapheme associations are established. Multiple regression analyses showed visual offset RT as the only variable to account for a significant amount of variance in spelling attainment after age was taken into account, which may relate to Frith's (1985) contention that spelling is important in driving early alphabetic ability.

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