Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15: 613–631, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Phonological skills and reading comprehension
LIV ENGEN & TORLEIV HØIEN
Dyslexia Research Foundation, Stavanger, Norway
Abstract. In the present study the main focus is on the impact of phonological awareness on
reading comprehension. The study involved 1300 children in Grade 1. Syllable awareness,
phoneme awareness, word decoding and reading comprehension were each assessed with
two or three subtests. The results were analyzed by structural modeling. Due to the marked
skewness observed for some of the manifest variables, separate analyses were performed for
students with average word decoding performance and for students with poor word decoding.
Both among average and poor decoders, phonological awareness had a direct impact on
reading comprehension, indicating that phonological factors play an independent role in the
processing of text. One possible way to explain this observation is that at least two critical
factors in comprehension, vocabulary and short-term memory, are both determined in part
by phonological ability. It might also be the case that phonological awareness partly reﬂects
metacognitive processes assumed to be involved in reading comprehension.
Key words: Decoding, Phonemic awareness, Phonological skills, Reading acquisition,
There is broad agreement among researchers that general linguistic skills
are prerequisites for learning to read (Adams 1990; Snow, Burns & Grifﬁn
1998; Tunmer & Hoover 1992). In particular, it appears that young readers
need to have attained a certain level of phonological awareness to acquire
proﬁciency in reading (for overview, see Blachman 1997; McGuinness 1997).
Furthermore, a number of studies have shown that phonological ability in
kindergarten is a highly potent factor in predicting reading performance
in beginning readers (Blachman 1984; Bradley & Bryant 1983; Lundberg,
Olofsson & Wall 1980). There is also converging evidence that training in
phonological awareness has a beneﬁcial effect on reading (Ball & Blachman
1991; Hatcher, Hulme & Ellis 1994; Lie 1991; Lundberg, 1994; Lundberg,
Frost & Petersen 1988), and that poor readers often reveal severe weakness in
the phonological domain as compared to younger reading-matched children
with normal reading competence (Lundberg & Høien 1989; Stanovich &