In the Jackson and Coltheart theory of acquisition of word reading it is claimed that, near the beginning of the partial alphabetic phase of development, children have full use of abstract letter units (ALUs). This claim and less exclusive alternatives were examined. In Experiment 1, normal progress children with on average 9 months of school reading instruction, either with or without explicit phonics, read with moderate accuracy (orthographically) familiar words in upper-case letters (e.g., AND) that are visually dissimilar from their lower-case forms. Lower-case forms were read with greater accuracy but only for familiar words, there being no letter-case effect for less familiar words. Children with explicit phonics showed less impairment in reading accuracy when words were presented in upper-case form than children without such phonics. Children with on average 22 months of instruction, in Experiment 2, read relatively unfamiliar words that required some phonological mediation. Those without explicit phonics instruction read words with digraphs in unfamiliar upper case less accurately than in lower case, while those with explicit phonics showed no such letter-case difference. The results supported the view that children do not have full use of ALUs in early alphabetic reading, both children with and without explicit phonics to some extent using letter identities specific to lower case for representation of familiar words.
Reading and Writing – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 9, 2007
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