What is it about?

We followed 600 children while they started learning to read in Spanish, a transparent orthography. We measured the traditional predictors of reading in these children in kindergarten and we followed them through first and second grade. What we want to understand is how each child, depending on their cognitive profile, learns to read. At variance with what is found for opaque orthographies ( like English or French), in Spanish, phonological awareness at K5 -a traditional strong predictor of reading- does not make an independent contribution to future reading. Letter (sound or name) knowledge is the most important predictor in our case.

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Why is it important?

The paper shows in a longitudinal study, with a big sample, for the first time, that focusing on phonological awareness training might not be the most sensible strategy for teaching how to read. In Spanish, our results suggest that first focusing on letter-sound correspondences and then teaching how to blend them is the most productive teaching strategy.


Most scientific studies of reading use English as a target language, with some notable exceptions. By focusing more on different languages and writing systems, we hope to broaden the scope of the literature. In particular, we are now developing deep network models in order to understand the computational processes and the differences in these processes between opaque and transparent languages, that explain our results.

Juan Valle-Lisboa
Universidad de la Republica Uruguay

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Mind the orthography: Revisiting the contribution of prereading phonological awareness to reading acquisition., Developmental Psychology, March 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/dev0001341.
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