Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14: 379–394, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Serial recall and nonword repetition in reading disabled children
STEVEN ROODENRYS & JULIE STOKES
University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
Abstract. This study examined the performance on verbal short-term memory tasks of
speciﬁcally reading disabled children relative to reading-age matched and chronological-age
matched control groups. Memory span for words, highly wordlike nonwords and less wordlike
nonwords, speech rates for these items, and nonword repetition were examined. The reading
disabled group performed equivalently to the reading-age controls on all tasks, and worse than
the chronological-age controls. An effect of the wordlikeness of the nonwords was found in
all tasks. Differences in speech rate accounted for the effect of wordlikeness in memory span
but not for the difference between words and nonwords, or for the difference between groups.
The stimulus effects did not vary between the groups suggesting that reading disabled children
are not impaired on the process which gives rise to these effects, however they are impaired
on the task overall, even after speech rate differences are taken into account. These results
are consistent with the notion that there is a long-term memory contribution to memory span
which is related to reading ability.
Keywords: Dyslexia, Nonword repetition, Reading disability, Short-term memory
There has long been an interest in the relationship between short-term
memory capacity and reading ability. In particular, researchers have invest-
igated the apparent deﬁcit in short-term memory (STM) performance which
is associated with reading difﬁculties. Some studies have compared children
of the same age who vary in reading ability (e.g. Brady et al. 1989; McDou-
gall et al. 1994), while others have investigated the deﬁcit in children with
a speciﬁc reading disability (SRD) using a standard memory span procedure
(e.g. Avons & Hanna 1995) or a nonword repetition task (e.g. Snowling et al.
1986). The present study re-examines the deﬁcit shown by SRD children on
short-term memory tasks in the light of recent evidence, described below,
that performance on these tasks is also inﬂuenced by the availability of
phonological information in long-term memory.
A widely accepted conceptualisation of short-term memory within which
to interpret the deﬁcit shown by SRD children is the Working Memory
model (Baddeley & Hitch 1974; Baddeley 1986). Working memory is a
limited capacity, multi-component system, comprising an attentional control