Phonological awareness and reading achievement of children from differing socioeconomic status backgrounds

Krista L Robertson, University of Rhode Island


Phonological awareness has been demonstrated to be a causal factor in reading achievement for children from middle income backgrounds. Two findings support this conclusion: extent of awareness in kindergarten predicts reading success in first grade and teaching phonological awareness facilitates learning to read. The present study explored whether the high risk of reading for children with low socio-economic status (SES) is related to deficits in phonological awareness during kindergarten and first grade.^ To examine the phonological abilities of Low-SES children, a descriptive, longitudinal study lasting from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of first grade was conducted with 113 children from Low-SES backgrounds and with 42 High-SES children tested for comparison purposes. Several issues were examined: (a) How the two groups compared at the beginning of kindergarten on a set of cognitive, linguistic, and pre-reading measures; (b) How they performed on a spelling task administered at the end of kindergarten; (c) Whether any differences between the group's cognitive and linguistic skills remained or changed by the end of first grade; (d) Whether the SES groups differed in reading achievement in first grade; and (e) Whether, for a subset of participants from each group who were matched on IQ, SES differences would be obtained.^ Measures used during the two years of the study included nonverbal processing, receptive vocabulary, letter knowledge, word identification, word attack, story reading and comprehension, spelling, pseudoword repetition, and a variety of phonological awareness tasks. Teacher and parent interviews and home information questionnaires were also completed.^ Results indicated that the Low-SES kindergarten children scored significantly lower on all cognitive, linguistic, and pre-reading measures, and they also did less well on the spelling task. Despite noteworthy gains over the next year, a similar pattern of results was obtained at the end of the first-grade year. Interesting differences in predictor variables for first-grade reading skills were evident depending on SES, suggesting that the Low-SES children were progressing more slowly through levels of phonological awareness. Implications are discussed regarding assessment of phonological awareness skills and the importance of early intervention. ^

Subject Area

Education, Early Childhood|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Reading

Recommended Citation

Krista L Robertson, "Phonological awareness and reading achievement of children from differing socioeconomic status backgrounds" (1997). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9805248.