Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14: 615–642, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Differences in reading development among Danish
beginning-readers with high versus low phonemic awareness on
entering grade one
Centre for School Psychology, Bornholm, Denmark
Abstract. This longitudinal study explored the relation between preschool phoneme aware-
ness and initial reading development. Distinctions were made between formal and functional
letter knowledge and between foundation and subsequent phases of reading development. 44
children with at least average language comprehension were followed from the beginning of
grade 1 (7 years) until the end of grade 2. They were divided into two groups: one group of 21
children with high phonemic awareness (HPA) and 23 children with low phonemic awareness
(LPA) on entering grade 1. The results showed persistent group differences in favour of the
HPA children regarding letter-knowledge and word reading. The results conﬁrmed a signiﬁ-
cant impact of functional letter knowledge on the length of the foundation period and on later
reading development. Length of foundation period was shown to have a signiﬁcant impact on
reading development at the end of grades 1 and 2. It is argued that phonemic awareness is an
indispensable catalyst in the development of initial word processing ability.
Keywords: Early reading development, Foundation period, Functional letter knowledge,
Several longitudinal training-studies have demonstrated positive effects on
early reading development from training of phonological awareness in kinder-
garten and grade 1 (Bradley & Bryant 1983; Brennan & Ireson 1997; Lie
1991; Lundberg, Frost & Petersen 1988; Schneider, Küspert, Roth, Visé &
Marx 1997). Furthermore, we have clear evidence of the facilitating effects of
phonemic awareness training on reading development in children who would
be expected to develop reading difﬁculties (Blachman 1994; Borstroem &
Elbro 1997; Hurford, Schauf, Bunce, Blaich & Moore 1994; Lundberg 1994;
Olofsson, Lundberg, Frost & Petersen 1991). However, it still seems difﬁ-
cult to deﬁne in detail the pathway from phonemic awareness to reading.
The proposed developmental pathway from ability to participate actively
in nursery rhymes through rhyming and onset/rime awareness (Goswami &
Mead 1992), via phonemic awareness to reading, needs supplementary abili-