Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 15: 341–358, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The relation of beginning readers’ reported word identiﬁcation
strategies to reading achievement, reading-related skills, and
WILLIAM E. TUNMER & JAMES W. CHAPMAN
College of Education, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Abstract. Beginning readers’ reported word identiﬁcation strategies for identifying
unfamiliar words in text were examined in relation to reading achievement, reading-related
skills, and academic self-perceptions. Children who were participating in a three-year longitu-
dinal study of reading acquisition in a whole language instructional context were placed in
two groups according to their reported word identiﬁcation strategies obtained towards the
end of their ﬁrst year of schooling. Results indicated that children who reported using word-
based strategies showed superior reading and reading-related performance, and reported more
positive self-efﬁcacy beliefs in reading and more positive academic self-concepts than children
who reported using text-based strategies. The results are discussed in terms of predictions
stemming from the different theoretical assumptions about reading acquisition that underlie
the code-emphasis and whole language approaches to beginning reading instruction.
Key words: Academic self-concept, Beginning reading, Self-efﬁcacy, Word identiﬁcation
Successful reading acquisition requires that children develop efﬁcient
strategies for identifying unfamiliar words in text. Efﬁcient word identiﬁca-
tion strategies are necessary for the development of rapid word recognition
ability. High levels of automaticity in word recognition in turn free up
cognitive resources for allocation to comprehension and text integration
processes, both essential for making progress in learning to read (Perfetti
1985). The main purpose of this study was to examine the relations of begin-
ning readers’ reported word identiﬁcation strategies to reading achievement,
reading-related skills, and academic self-perceptions, particularly reading
There are two general strategies that beginning readers can use to identify
unfamiliar words in text, text-based strategies and word-based strategies.
Text-based strategies include the use of picture cues, semantic cues (which
indicate whether the attempted response satisﬁes the semantic constraints
of the sentence; e.g., “The ball ate the sandwich”), syntactic cues (which
indicate whether the attempted response satisﬁes the grammatical constraints