Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15: 709–737, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The inﬂuence of speech perception, oral language ability, the
home literacy environment, and pre-reading knowledge on the
growth of phonological sensitivity: A one-year longitudinal
STEPHEN R. BURGESS
Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, Oklahoma, USA
Abstract. Individual differences in phonological sensitivity are among the most powerful
predictors of early word decoding ability and a deﬁcit in phonological sensitivity is thought
to be the primary stumbling block for those children who have difﬁculty learning to read.
However, only recently have researchers begun to search for the potential causes and correlates
in phonological sensitivity development. In the present one-year longitudinal study, the inﬂu-
ences of speech perception, oral language ability, emergent literacy, and the home literacy
environment (HLE) on the growth of phonological sensitivity were examined in a group of
115 four- and ﬁve-year-old children. When the variables were entered simultaneously into
a multiple regression equation, emergent literacy, oral language, and the HLE contributed
signiﬁcant unique variance. However, when the autoregressor was controlled, only phono-
logical sensitivity at Time 1 and HLE contributed signiﬁcant unique variance to predicting
growth in phonological sensitivity. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for the
education of preschool as well as school-aged children.
Key words: Emergent literacy, Home environment, Language development, Phonological
Developmental and individual differences in phonological processing are now
believed to be causally related to the normal acquisition of early reading
skills (Ball & Blachman 1988; Bradley & Bryant 1985; Stanovich 1986;
Wagner & Torgesen 1987; Wagner, Torgesen & Rashotte 1994). Phonological
processes include: phonological awareness, phonological recoding in lexical
access, and phonetic recoding to maintain information in working memory
(Gathercole, Willis & Baddeley 1991; Wagner & Torgesen 1987; Wagner,
Torgesen, Laughon, Simmons & Rashotte 1993; Wagner et al. 1994). Of the
phonological processes, most investigation has concentrated on the role of
phonological awareness, which is usually deﬁned as one’s awareness of and
access to the phonology of one’s language.
Researchers have found that individual differences in phonological aware-
ness are among the most powerful predictors of early word decoding ability