Correlates of early reading performance in a transparent orthography

Kurt Johann Muller, University of Rhode Island


Most studies examining individual differences in learning to read have been carried out with English speaking subjects. These have shown that phoneme awareness and decoding knowledge are strong correlates of reading success. The present study examined which factors account for early reading performance in Finnish, a transparent orthography that, in contrast to English, has a clear mapping of phonemes onto graphemes. A cross-sectional study was conducted with 83 first graders and 81 fourth graders at the end of the school year. Measures used for the study for both grades included reading comprehension, pseudoword decoding speed, decoding accuracy, Block Design and Vocabulary (WISC-R), listening comprehension, measures of phoneme awareness, object naming and digit naming. For the first grade sample, additional measures assessed morphological awareness, syllable awareness and spelling skill. These first graders were also tested on a screening battery at the beginning of the school year.^ Results indicated that the sets of measures accounted for 56% of the variance in reading performance in first grade and 64% of the variance in fourth grade. In contrast to other studies in shallow orthographies, phoneme awareness was strongly related to end-of-first year reading performance on the spelling and decoding measures. General intelligence and digit naming were moderately related to first grade reading comprehension. From the screening battery, the ability to identify the first letter of a spoken word was the best predictor of end-of-year reading comprehension among first graders. In the fourth grade, phoneme awareness was related to reading performance only among the poor readers in the sample. Vocabulary skill shared 27%, and object naming skill 14% of the variance with reading comprehension.^ The results indicate that the relations among correlates of early reading proficiency in Finnish orthography are similar to English, even if the Finnish orthography is easier to decode. Therefore, both beginning Finnish readers at risk for reading problems and older poor readers are likely to benefit comparably to English-speaking children from instruction designed to improve phoneme awareness and decoding.^ An interesting contrast to the results seen in English was the greater contribution of listening comprehension to reading performance in first grade. ^

Subject Area

Education, Elementary|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Reading

Recommended Citation

Kurt Johann Muller, "Correlates of early reading performance in a transparent orthography" (1998). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9908227.