The present research examined whether children's awareness of phonological similarities between words with respect to rhyme and consonantal word onset is of the same importance for learning to read German as it was found to be for learning to read English. In two longitudinal studies differences in phonological sensitivity among children before learning to read (at age 6 to 7) were tested with versions of Bradley & Bryant's (1985) oddity detection task. Children's reading and spelling achievements were tested about one year later at the end of grade one, and again at around the age of 10. The main finding was a developmental change in the predictive relationship of rhyme and word‐onset awareness. Rhyme awareness was only minimally predictive for reading and spelling achievement at the end of grade one, but gained substantially in predictive importance for reading and spelling achievement in grades three and four. No such predictive improvement was observed for word‐onset awareness. It is proposed that rhyme awareness is initially of little importance, because in the first phase of learning to read German children rely heavily on indirect word recognition via grapheme‐phoneme translation and blending. The gain in the predictive importance of rhyme awareness is explained by its helpful effect on the establishment of mental representations of written words. Such mental representations allow fast, direct word recognition and orthographically correct spellings. Awareness of larger phonological units is helpful for the efficient establishment of such representations, by allowing connections of recurring grapheme clusters in written words with phonology.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology – Wiley
Published: Nov 1, 1994
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