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A Longitudinal Analysis of the Connection Between Oral Language and Early Reading

FROMA P. ROTH DEBORAH L. SPEECE DAVID H. COOPER

University of Maryland

ABSTRACT To clarify the relationship between oral lan- guage and early reading development, the authors adminis- tered to 39 children a broad range of oral language measures in 3 areas (metalinguistics, structural language, and narrative discourse); measures of background variables (IQ, socioeco- nomic status, ethnicity, gender, family literacy); and measures of reading ability (word recognition, pseudoword reading, pas- sage comprehension) in kindergarten and in 1st and 2nd grades. The authors used regression analyses to identify parsi- monious models that explained variance in early reading. The main finding of the study was that semantic abilities (i.e., oral definitions and word retrieval), not phonological awareness, predicted 2nd-grade reading comprehension. As expected, phonological awareness skill in kindergarten predicted single- word reading at 1st and 2nd grades. The finding that semantic skills predicted passage comprehension suggests that the importance of different oral language skills to early reading varies as a function of language domain, reading skill, and measurement point.

Key words: early reading, oral language, oral language– reading relationship

this article, we present findings from the first 3 years of

longitudinal study designed to clarify the relationship

between oral language and early reading acquisition in nor- mally developing children. Despite abundant evidence that skill in phonological awareness is important for learning to read, the precise nature of the oral language–reading con- nection remains underspecified. Several factors contribute to this circumstance. In the past, researchers typically focused on only one or two aspects of language, rather than consid- ering the multidimensional nature of the linguistic system (Ricard & Snow, 1990). In the same vein, Roth, Speece, Cooper, and De La Paz (1996) showed that performance comparisons between normal and impaired reading groups often have been made without independent measures of reading ability. Thus, it is not known whether the identified language differences were related to reading performance. Finally, the likelihood that different oral language skills

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may exhibit different patterns of linkage to reading across the early school years has not been explored systematically. Clarification of the oral language–reading connection will advance theoretical constructs of the relationship between these two knowledge domains. Such clarification is critical because of the important implications for early identifica- tion and effective instruction of children who may be at risk for reading problems. Beyond the role of phonemic awareness, the relationship between oral language and reading currently can be charac- terized only in general terms. For example, it is widely acknowledged that reading is a language-based skill (Menyuk et al., 1991; Shankweiler, Crane, Brady, & Macar- ruso, 1992) and that an oral language deficit in the preschool years constitutes a risk factor for successful liter- acy acquisition (Aram & Nation, 1980; Catts, 1993; Wilson & Risucci, 1988). Moreover, oral language has been shown to have varying degrees of importance to reading, depend- ing on which variables have been controlled (Roth et al., 1996; Scarborough, 1990). Catts, Fey, Zhang, and Tomblin (1999), for example, found that oral language accounted for 13.8% of unique variance in second-grade reading compre- hension and 19.7% in word recognition. When IQ was con- trolled, however, the amount of unique variance attributed to oral language on these two reading measures was reduced to 3.6% and 1.2%, respectively. To advance our knowledge, the next step is to identify the specific contributions of different language skills and back- ground factors to early reading acquisition. This requires the adoption of a broad oral language framework and the use of an analysis strategy that provides a stringent test of the relative influence of different variables. Several approaches are available, including factor analysis for data reduction followed by regression modeling. The strategy that we selected for the present study was parsimonious

Address correspondence to Froma P. Roth, Department of Hear-

ing

and Speech Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park,

MD

20742. (E-mail: froth@hesp.umd.edu)

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regression modeling, because it permitted an examination of the roles that different oral language domains may play in relation to reading development. As depicted in Figure 1, our approach to parsimony involved two stages. In Stage 1, we first sought to identify variables within each domain (i.e., structural language, narrative discourse, metalinguis- tics, and background factors) that were significant predic- tors of early reading. These variables were then carried for- ward to Stage 2, in which all significant domain-specific predictors were tested together to determine which vari- ables were most important to early reading. A parsimonious strategy applied to a broad view of oral language will inform our understanding of which language skills (in addi- tion to phonological awareness), or combinations thereof, are the strongest precursors of reading acquisition and which may have less direct or no demonstrable influence. A clear understanding of the oral language–reading con- nection also necessitates consideration of the relative impor- tance of the variety of background variables that children bring to the literacy learning environment. These variables include a child’s level of intellectual functioning (IQ), ethnic- ity, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and the home/family literacy environment. Unfortunately, inclusion of background variables in previous studies has been inconsistent (Roth et al., 1996). The potential importance of these variables is underscored by Bryant, MacLean, and Bradley’s (1990) lon- gitudinal study of linguistic and metalinguistic predictors of early literacy. These variables accounted for significant and

The Journal of Educational Research

unique variance in reading and spelling scores when IQ and social background had not been entered into the regressions. But then with IQ and social background variables (SES and level of parent education) scores entered, in addition to oral language variables, the results changed in two significant ways. First, the linguistic variables were no longer significant predictors of reading and spelling performance of their 6- year-old participants; second, the metalinguistic variable (syntactic awareness) also was no longer a significant predic- tor. These findings show that the examination of background factors is essential to an accurate account of how the domains of oral and written language relate to one another; failure to control for these variables can lead to spurious results.

Oral Language Framework

In addition to phonological awareness, there is theoreti- cal or empirical support that three domains of oral language are related to the development of reading ability: structural language (semantics, morphology, and syntax), metaseman- tics, and narrative discourse. Structural language. Researchers have proposed that semantic and syntactic knowledge are integrally related to reading, in that both subsystems serve as primary cues for constructing meaning from written text (Liberman, 1983; Vellutino, Scanlon, Small, & Tanzman, 1991). These oral language skills presumably enable a child to derive mean- ing from printed words and to use sentence structure infor-

Figure 1. Conceptual Model of Background Factors, Oral Language Domains, and Early Reading

STAGE ONE: Domain-Specific Regression Analyses to Identify Significant Predictors of Reading
STAGE ONE:
Domain-Specific Regression Analyses
to Identify Significant Predictors of Reading
STAGE TWO:

STAGE TWO:

STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models

Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models

Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
STAGE TWO: Multi-Domain Regression Analyses to Identify Parsimonious Models
Early Reading Print Awareness Decoding Comprehension
Early Reading
Print Awareness
Decoding
Comprehension

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mation to predict the grammatical order and form of words. Children with reading difficulties frequently perform poor- ly on tasks that measure aspects of structural language, such as understanding morphological rules, comprehending and producing complex sentence forms, retrieving words from their mental lexicons, and understanding and using abstract vocabulary words (Denckla & Rudel, 1976; German, 1984; Vogel, 1974, 1977; Wiig, LaPointe, & Semel, 1977). How- ever, data are uneven regarding the relationship between reading acquisition and structural language. Supportive evidence was provided by Torgesen and Davis (1996) and Magnusson and Naucler (1990). Torgesen and Davis showed that semantics plays an indirect role in reading acquisition. They identified individual child charac- teristics that predicted growth in phonological skills of kindergarten children following training. Vocabulary knowledge at pretest predicted growth on both segmenta- tion and blending skills, but was most strongly related to segmentation ability. Magnusson and Naucler longitudinal- ly examined the linguistic and metalinguistic prerequisites to reading and spelling of 37 pairs of language-impaired (LI) and normally achieving (NA) children matched for sex, age, and nonverbal cognitive level prior to, and at the end of, first grade. In all cases, both the LI and NA good spellers and readers scored higher on the metaphonological and syn- tactic comprehension and production tasks compared with the poor LI and NA spellers and readers, indicating that both linguistic (syntactic) and metalinguistic abilities may be important for the acquisition of literacy skills. In their study of 9-year-old students in three ability groups (those with reading disabilities, those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder without an accompanying reading disability, and typical readers), Lombardino, Ric- cio, Hynd, and Pinheiro (1997) showed that, as a combined sample, the expressive language composite score and phonemic awareness accounted for 59% of unique variance in word attack, with phonemic awareness alone accounting for 49% of the word attack variance. Passage comprehen- sion was best predicted by phonemic awareness, the expres- sive language composite score, and the receptive language composite score, contributing 57% of its variance. Expres- sive language alone accounted for 49% of the unique vari- ance in reading comprehension. Recently, Catts and col- leagues (1999) followed a group of good and poor readers from kindergarten to second grade and found that oral lan- guage (a composite score derived from receptive and expressive language measures) accounted for small but sig- nificant unique variance in predicting second-grade reading comprehension and word recognition controlling for IQ. The literature also contains counter- or equivocal evi- dence for the relationship between structural language vari- ables and reading with both normally developing and dis- abled samples. Mann (1984) reported that a measure of syntactic comprehension administered in kindergarten mar- ginally differentiated good and poor readers in first grade but did not distinguish poor from average readers. Both

Shankweiler et al. (1995) and Gottardo, Stanovich, and Siegel (1996) reported that syntactic performance was not connected to reading in middle elementary school-aged children. Shankweiler et al. (1995) found that morphologi- cal, rather than syntactic, knowledge served to differentiate good and poor readers between 7 and 9 years of age. Simi- larly, Gottardo et al. found that syntactic processing did not predict word recognition, pseudoword reading, and reading comprehension in third-grade children once working mem- ory and phonological sensitivity were controlled. Wagner, Torgesen, Laughon, Simmons, and Rashotte (1993) and Wagner and colleagues (1997) followed a group of normally developing children between kindergarten and fourth grade and found that expressive vocabulary (Stan- ford-Binet Vocabulary subtest) did not add any unique vari- ance to word-level reading beyond the contribution of phonological awareness. Vellutino and his colleagues (Vel- lutino & Scanlon, 1987; Vellutino et al., 1991) examined the contribution of semantic (WISC-R Vocabulary and Similar- ities subtests) and syntactic variables (Wug Test and gram- matical judgment task) in predicting reading comprehen- sion in younger (second and third grades) and older (sixth and seventh grades) good and poor readers. Of the language areas measured, the vocabulary tasks were the best predic- tors of reading comprehension; the grammatical tasks accounted for no unique variance. Vellutino and colleagues (1991) reported mixed results for group differences on the semantic and syntactic mea- sures at each grade level. Neither vocabulary nor grammat- ical measures distinguished the second- and third-grade good and poor readers, but both language areas differentiat- ed groups at sixth and seventh grades. Recently, Vellutino et al. (1996) reported no group differences on semantic mea- sures in kindergarten and first-grade normal and poor read- ers, whereas group differences were found on some of the syntactic measures. These findings were interpreted as con- firming that phonologically based skills are most important in the early stage of reading but that syntactic and semantic abilities may be influential when the reading task becomes more a meaning-based than a decoding activity. In summary, the relationship between structural language knowledge and reading acquisition remains equivocal because the data supporting this connection are mixed. Metasemantics. Given the strong positive correlation between phonological awareness and reading, other met- alinguistic skills such as metasemantic awareness are prob- ably also related to reading. Metasemantics is the ability to manipulate the meanings of words, phrases, and sentences and includes the ability to understand and generate nonlit- eral language forms such as idioms (e.g., He hit the ceiling); metaphors (e.g., Butterflies are rainbows); similes (e.g., The clouds are like ice cream); and proverbs (e.g., Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched). Metasemantics is a likely candidate for analysis of successful reading acquisi- tion for several reasons. First, basic vocabulary knowledge has been shown to be related to reading (Torgesen & Davis,

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1996; Vellutino & Scanlon, 1987; Vellutino et al., 1991), and children with language and reading disabilities demon- strate reduced receptive and expressive vocabulary funds (Leonard, 1989). Second, metasemantics is a higher order semantic skill that is based on the organization of word knowledge into semantic networks. Thus, it is not surprising that children with language and learning disorders across the elementary school years demonstrate particular difficulty with tasks that require metasemantic processing (Lutzer, 1988; Nip- pold & Fey, 1993; Seidenberg & Bernstein, 1986). The dif- ficulties that these children exhibit on metasemantic tasks may be an extension of their reduced vocabularies. Gibbs (1991), for example, showed that knowledge of literal word meaning helped facilitate children’s interpretation of figura- tive meaning. Finally, Torgesen (1995) showed that vocab- ulary knowledge plays a larger role than phonological awareness in children’s reading performance as they ad- vance through the primary grades. Therefore, a child’s level of metasemantic proficiency may be a sensitive predictor of developing reading skill; however, data directly addressing this hypothesis have yet to be reported in the literature. Narrative discourse. There is a widely held belief that narrative discourse serves as a major transition between oral language and literacy (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992; Westby, 1984, 1991). Developmentally, children are thought to progress from conversational discourse, an interactive use of language, to narrative discourse, a literate language form. Moreover, oral narration and written text share many com- mon properties. Both are monologue forms of language. Also, like written text, the syntactic structure of narratives is both more concise and complex and involves the use of unfamiliar and abstract vocabulary. Finally, both narration and text are considered decontextualized language forms because they are generated after, or independently of, an experience and are therefore “distanced from reality” (Dickinson & Snow, 1987; Westby, 1991). Children purportedly bring a basic knowledge of narra- tive structure to the reading acquisition task and apply this knowledge in their efforts to learn how to decipher written text. Thus, we reasoned that deficits in oral narration may have a substantial impact on children’s reading achievement when narrative structure has not been sufficiently developed or cannot be effectively accessed. The potential role of narrative discourse skill in reading acquisition is supported by studies demonstrating that chil- dren with language and reading disabilities perform signifi- cantly more poorly on tasks that measure several different narrative processes, including story memory (Gillam & John- ston, 1992; Graybeal, 1981), story comprehension (Merritt & Liles, 1987; Oakhill, 1984), and story production (Roth & Spekman, 1986; Roth, Spekman, & Fye, 1995). Researchers also have demonstrated that skill in narrative discourse may be a predictor of reading achievement and later academic success (Bishop & Edmundson, 1987; Feagans & Appel- baum, 1986; Paul & Smith, 1993; Stephens, 1988).

The Journal of Educational Research

Despite prevailing sentiment, few researchers have con- ducted studies that directly test the connection between nar- rative skill and reading. Most previous investigations are cross-sectional and are characterized by a group-difference design, in which children with and without disabilities are compared on some dimension of oral language without an independent measure of reading. As a result, the connection between narration and reading has been inferred, not demonstrated. The exception is the work of Feagans and Appelbaum (1986) and Feagans and Short (1984), which provides direct evidence that oral narration abilities con- tribute to reading achievement and offers convincing impe- tus for further pursuing the strength of the connection.

Developmental Patterns of Oral Language and Reading

Oral language and reading are developmental processes that undergo both quantitative and qualitative changes over time. In their attempts to specify the relationship between oral language and reading, researchers must acknowledge both the dynamic nature of the language acquisition process and the breadth of linguistic skills that children acquire. This knowledge leads us to suspect that the link between oral language skills and reading is not uniform over time but changes during the developmental period of early reading. Although phonological awareness plays the crucial role in word decoding, other higher order oral language skills may become more influential as reading acquisition proceeds. The results of Vellutino and Scanlon (1987); Vellutino et al. (1991); and Vellutino et al. (1996) provide support for a developmental progression and underscore the importance of developmental studies. Snyder and Downey’s (1991) work also is consistent with a developmental proposal. Those authors found that narrative discourse accounted for unique variance in reading in an older group of participants (11–14 years of age), and, to a lesser extent, in a younger group (8–11 years of age). A similar developmental pattern is anticipated in the area of metasemantics. Metasemantic abilities are relatively late-developing oral language forms, emerging throughout the elementary school years. As increased facility is gained with these forms, children will likely access this knowledge to help in the reading compre- hension process, and vice versa.

The Present Study

To elucidate the oral language–reading connection, we followed a group of normally developing kindergarten chil- dren for 3 years, obtaining measures of structural language, metalinguistics, narrative discourse, and background vari- ables in kindergarten. We collected reading measures in kindergarten and in first and second grades. The purpose of this study was twofold: (a) to determine the predictive rela- tionships of a broad spectrum of oral language skills mea- sured in kindergarten with the reading ability of children in first and second grades, taking into consideration a variety

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of background factors and (b) to determine whether differ- ent aspects of oral language are important to reading skill at different points in development.

Method

Participants

The children who participated in this study attended a public elementary school in the mid-Atlantic states. The initial sample for the kindergarten analysis consisted of 88 children from a population of 109. Reasons for attrition included parents’ and children’s refusal to participate and limited English proficiency. According to school records, the primary language of 22 (25%) of the children was a language other than English. The sample selected for this study comprised the 66 children who were native English speakers. As shown in Table 1, the study sample was diverse eco- nomically (32% received free/reduced-price lunches) and racially (45% African American, 1% American Indian, 48% White, and 5% Asian American). The mean age of the chil- dren at the time of testing was 5 years, 6 months (range: 5 years, 2 months to 6 years, 3 months). There were 38 boys (58%) and 28 girls (42%) in the sample. Of this sample, 48 children were located for follow-up testing in first grade and 39 in second grade. Chi-square analyses were conducted for the nominal variables and t tests for continuous variables. No significant differences were found between the original kindergarten sample and the sample remaining after second-grade attrition with respect to gender, SES, race, intelligence, or the score on a measure of print awareness, the Test of Early Reading Achievement-2 (TERA-2; Reid, Hresko, & Hammill, 1989). (All ps > .10.)

Table 1.—Participant Characteristics

Grade

K12

Variable

n

%

n

%

n

%

Gender

Female

28

42

19

40

15

38

Male

38

58

29

60

24

62

Free/reduced-price

lunches

No

44

67

31

65

26

67

Yes

21

32

16

33

12

31

Ethnicity

African American

30

45

23

48

18

46

American Indian

1

2

1

2

0

0

Asian American

3

5

2

4

2

5

White

32

48

22

46

19

49

n

66

48

39

Note. K = kindergarten.

Materials and Procedures

The materials consisted of three types of measures: oral language, background, and reading variables. The measures included both norm-referenced and experimental tasks known to be reliable and valid (see Table 2). The kinder- garten battery is presented in the Oral language section that follows. Oral language. We measured three domains of oral lan- guage. Structural language was assessed with measures of semantics and syntax. The semantic measures were the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R; Dunn & Dunn, 1981)—receptive vocabulary; Oral Vocabulary subtest of the Test of Language Development-Primary:2 (TOLD-P:2; Newcomer & Hammill, 1988)—word defini- tions; and the Boston Naming Test (Boston; Goodglass & Kaplan, 1983)—word retrieval. The syntactic and morpho- logic measures were the Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language-Revised (TACL-R; Carrow-Woolfolk, 1985)— receptive morphology and syntax; and the Formulated Sen- tences subtest of the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fun- damentals-Revised (CELF-R; Semel, Wiig, & Secord, 1987)—expressive morphology and syntax. Metalinguistic skills were measured by phonological awareness and metasemantic tasks. Phonological awareness was assessed by tasks of blending and elision (Torgesen, n.d.). Both tasks have adequate internal consistency and predictive validity with reading measures (Wagner et al., 1993; Wagner, Torgesen, & Rashotte, 1994). For the phono- logical blending task, children were asked to listen careful- ly as the examiner separately pronounced each sound of a word (e.g., /c/ /a/ /n/). They were then instructed to put the sounds together to say the whole word. There were 5 prac- tice items and 29 test items that ranged in difficulty from one-syllable, two-phoneme words to four-syllable, eight- phoneme words. The phonological elision tasks (also referred to as sound deletion) required the children to say a word and then to say what the word would be if a specified phoneme were deleted. For example, after repeating the word “bat,” the children were asked what word would be left if the word was said without the /b/. There were 4 prac- tice items and 25 test items consisting of two- to six- phoneme, one- to two-syllable words. The raw scores for each task were summed to provide a single measure of phonological awareness. The use of a combined phonolog- ical awareness score was based on recent findings by Schatschneider, Francis, Foorman, Fletcher, and Mehta (1999) that blending and elision tasks in kindergarten are measures of the same skill. Metasemantic skill was assessed through the Ambiguous Sentences and Figurative Language subtests of the Test of Language Competence-Expanded (TLC-E; Wiig & Secord, 1988)—comprehension and pro- duction of lexical ambiguity and idioms. Narrative discourse was measured through an experimen- tal task of familiar story production (Roth & Spekman, 1986) and an adaptation of the Del Rio English Story Com-

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Table 2.—Oral Language, Background, and Reading Measures in Kindergarten

Domain

Test/variable name

Structural language

Semantics

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised Test of Language Development-Primary:2/oral vocabulary Boston Naming Test Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language-Revised Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Revised/formulated sentences

Syntax

Metalinguistics Phonological awareness

Metasemantics

Torgesen's Tasks/elision Torgesen's Tasks/blending Test of Language Competence-Expanded/ambiguous sentences Test of Language Competence-Expanded/figurative language

Narrative discourse Familiar story production

Propositions

Story comprehension

Episodes Del Rio English Story Comprehension Test

Reading

Print awareness

Test of Early Reading Ability-2

Decoding

Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised/Letter-Word

Comprehension

Identification Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised/Word Attack Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised/Passage Comprehension

Background

Race

Parent report

Socioeconomic status

Free/reduced-price lunches

Family literacy

Modified Morrison Parent questionnaire

Performance IQ

Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices

Note. Reading comprehension measure added and structural language measures deleted in Grades 1 and 2.

prehension Test (San Felipe-Del Rio Consolidation Indepen- dent School District, 1975)—literal and inferential story comprehension. The story production task required the chil- dren to tell one of their favorite stories (e.g., Goldilocks and the Three Bears). All stories were audiotaped, transcribed, and segmented into propositions (Fillmore, 1968). The over- all strategy for analyzing stories followed a story grammar approach. Propositions, which approximate a main clause, were used as a measure of story length and as the basic unit of meaning within a story. The variables of interest were the number of propositions and the number of episodes within a story. For the story comprehension task, each child listened to three stories read by the examiner. Immediately following the completion of each story, the child was asked two literal and two inferential questions about its content, from which a single score was calculated. The order of story presentation was held constant across children; the order of question types (literal vs. inferential) was randomized. Interrater reliability was calculated on 15% of the proto- cols each year for proposition segmentation (minimum of 92% agreement) and episode segmentation (minimum of 85% agreement). Previous work provided evidence of con- current validity in that the measures discriminated between children (and adults) with and without learning disabilities (Roth & Spekman, 1986, 1994). Background measures. The background variables con- sisted of (a) race; (b) gender; (c) SES, as measured by free/reduced-price lunches; (d) nonverbal intelligence (IQ),

assessed by the Coloured Progressive Matrices (Raven,

1965); and (e) family literacy, as measured by responses to

a modified form of a parent questionnaire developed by

Morrison and his colleagues (Morrison, McMahon-Griffith, Williamson, & Hardway, 1993). This 21-item questionnaire asked parents to report on environmental and experiential aspects of literacy in the home environment from which a single score was derived (maximum score = 36). Reading measures. The kindergarten reading measures included the TERA-2 (print awareness) and the Letter– Word Identification (LWID; identification of single letters and words)—and Word Attack (WA; the pronunciation of pseudowords) subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho- educational Battery-Revised (WJ-R; Woodcock & Johnson,

1989). In first and second grades, the reading measures included the LWID and WA subtests of the WJ-R, as well as the addition of the Passage Comprehension (PC) subtest. The test battery was reduced in first and second grades and

included the metalinguistic, narrative, and reading measures.

In

kindergarten, the children were tested in two 1-hr sessions;

in

first and second grade, a single 1-hr session was conduct-

ed. Testing occurred between February and April each year.

Data Analysis

The analysis plan relied on multiple regression in which the primary aim was to identify parsimonious models con- taining oral language and background variables to explain

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significant variance in early reading (LWID, WA, PC). The search for parsimony necessitates the use of a stringent, model-testing analysis strategy because the goal is to iden- tify, from an array of variables, only the most influential and theoretically relevant contributors to the explanation of reading variance. A two-staged analysis strategy was used (see Figure 1). In Stage 1, a preliminary set of analyses was conducted to identify measures in the domains of oral lan- guage (structural language, metalinguistics, and narrative discourse) and background variables that explained unique variance in reading. Variables were said to explain unique variance in reading if, when entered last in the hierarchical series, the variables’ regression parameters were statistical- ly significant (p < .05). For each domain-specific model tested, the “autoregressor” for the dependent measure (i.e., WA, LWID, PC) was entered prior to the analysis of the lan- guage and background variables. The autoregressor was entered first into each regression model to control for a child’s initial skill for each of the dependent measures. The significant variables from each domain-specific analysis were carried forward to the Stage 2 analysis to ascertain the parsimonious model for the prediction of LWID, WA, and PC. At this stage, candidate variables from multiple do- mains were tested simultaneously to establish their relative influence on the reading measures. Two sets of predictive models were tested for each reading skill (kindergarten to first grade; kindergarten to second grade). As with the

domain-specific analyses, variables were retained if they accounted for unique variance.

Results

Descriptive Statistics

Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics for all oral lan- guage and reading measures. Table 4 reports the correla- tional data for all continuously measured variables during the kindergarten year, and Table 5 gives the correlations longitudinally for measures taken from kindergarten with reading measures taken from first and second grades.

Predicting First-Grade Reading From Kindergarten

In this section, we report the results of regressive analy- ses that explored the prediction of first-grade reading from variables assessed in kindergarten. The unique and overall R 2 values, standardized beta weights, and t ratios for each variable in the parsimonious regression models are con- tained in Table 6. The test statistics for the parsimonious models are presented in text. Pseudoword reading. There were no significant kinder- garten predictors of first-grade pseudoword reading scores for the domains of narrative discourse beyond the influence of the autoregressor—pseudoword reading score in kinder- garten. Among the background variables, IQ (unique R 2 =

Table 3.—Descriptive Statistics for All Measures

Grade

K1

2

Variable name (test)

M

SD

M

SD

M

SD

Receptive vocabulary (PPVT-R) Oral vocabulary (TOLD-P:2) Word retrieval (Boston Naming Test) Receptive morphology and syntax (TACL-R) Expressive morphology and syntax (CELF-R) Blending (Torgesen's Tasks) Elision (Torgesen's Tasks) Ambiguous sentences (TLC-E) Figurative language (TLC-E) Propositions (Familiar story production) Episodes (Familiar story production) Story comprehension (Del Rio) Print awareness (TERA-2) Word reading (WJ-R/Letter-Word Identification) Pseudoword reading (WJ-R/Word Attack) Reading comprehension (WJ-R/Passage Comprehension) Family literacy (questionnaire) Nonverbal intelligence (Raven)

104

16

10

2

26

8

101

14

8

3

9

6

14

6

18

5

6

4

11

6

16

5

8

3

10

4

11

3

10

3

10

3

12

3

22

21

27

19

43

46

3

2

4

2

4

3

7

3

109

13

105

17

110

18

116

19

106

17

108

24

109

18

 

109

20

115

16

29

5

20

5

n

66

48

39

Note. K = kindergarten. PPVT = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised; TOLD = Test of Language Development:Oral Vocabu- lary; TACL-R = Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language-Revised; CELF-R = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals- Revised; TLC-E = Test of Language Competence-Expanded; Del Rio = Del Rio English Story Comprehension Test; TERA-2 = Test of Early Reading Ability (2nd ed.); WJ-R = Woodcock-Johnson Revised; Raven = Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices.

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Table 4.—Correlations in Kindergarten

Variable

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

1. Receptive vocabulary (PPVT-R)

2. Oral vocabulary (TOLD-P:2)

.31

3. Word retrieval (Boston Naming Test)

.74

.38

4. Receptive morphology and syntax (TACL-R)

.54

.42

.58

5. Expressive morphology and syntax (CELF-R)

.56

.33

.77

.58

6. Blending (Torgesen's Tasks)

.27

.22

.22

.46

.36

7. Elision (Torgesen's Tasks)

.29

.23

.54

.53

.66

.51

8. Ambiguous sentences (TLC-E)

.64

.27

.68

.54

.54

.27

.36

9. Figurative language (TLC-E)

.55

.11

.56

.45

.34

.14

.20

.47

10. Propositions (Familiar story production)

.12

.18

–.12

.01 –.16 –.08 .04 –.09 –.08

–.14

–.05

.06

11. Episodes (Familiar story production)

.13

.32

–.03

–.15

–.06 –.07

.87

12. Story comprehension (Del Rio)

.39

.30

.48

.40

.29

.15

.27

.33

.42

.01

.07

13. Print awareness (TERA-2)

.36

.26

.53

.56

.63

.44

.67

.42

.43

.00

.00

.40

14. Word reading (WJ-R/Letter-Word Identification)

.17

.24

.41

.38

.57

.49

.72

.18

.19 –.20 –.16 .07 –.22 –.24

.18

.77

15. Pseudoword reading (WJ-R/Word Attack)

.13

.18

.31

.27

.53

.50

.70

.05

.06

.60

.86

16. Family literacy (questionnaire)

.33

.44

.47

.45

.35

.15

.28

.27

.29

.23

.25

.25

.21

.29

.14

17. Nonverbal intelligence (Raven)

.47

.23

.54

.51

.54

.26

.27

.37

.39

.09

.03

.11

.33

.27

.13

.26

Note. PPVT = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised; TOLD = Test of Language Development: Oral Vocabulary; TACL-R = Test of Auditory Comprehension of Lan- guage-Revised; CELF-R = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Revised; TLC-E = Test of Language Competence-Expanded; Del Rio = Del Rio English Story Comprehension Test; TERA-2 = Test of Early Reading Ability (2nd ed.); WJ-R = Woodcock-Johnson Revised; Raven = Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices.

.07) and family literacy (unique R 2 = .07) were significant predictors, along with the autoregressor. Within the domain of metalinguistics, phonological awareness (unique R 2 = .04) and ambiguous sentences (unique R 2 = .03) were significant, together with the autoregressor, accounting for 73% of the variance. Within structural language, comprehension of syn- tax (TACL-R) was significant, along with the autoregressor, accounting for 69% of the variance in pseudoword reading. The final model tested included the autoregressor, phono- logical awareness, ambiguous sentences, and comprehen- sion of syntax. The parsimonious model included the autore- gressor, F(1, 37) = 27.1, p < .0001, phonological awareness, F(1, 37) = 6.7, p < .05, IQ, F(1, 37) = 7.4, p < .05, and fam- ily literacy, F(1, 37) = 5.8, p < .05, with the overall R 2 = .80 (see Table 7). Word reading. The autoregressor was a significant pre- dictor of every model predicting word reading. The signifi- cant variables and unique variances (R 2 ) for the domain- specific analyses of word reading were as follows:

background (IQ, R 2 = .05) and family literacy (R 2 = .06); metalinguistics (phonological awareness, R 2 = .04 and ambiguous sentences, R 2 = .05); and structural language (receptive syntax, R 2 = .09). There were no significant pre- dictors from the domain of narrative discourse. The final model included the significant domain variables and the autoregressor (word reading) measured in kindergarten. The parsimonious model included the autoregressor, F(1, 47) = 22.4, p < .0001; phonological awareness, F(1, 47) = 6.6, p < .05; and ambiguous sentences, F(1, 47) = 8.3, p < .01. The overall R 2 was .75.

Reading comprehension. We used the print awareness measure (TERA-2) as the autoregressor for first-grade com- prehension because we did not administer the WJ-R Pas- sage Comprehension subtest in kindergarten. The kinder- garten print awareness scores correlated .74 with first-grade reading comprehension, making it a reasonable surrogate. As in the other analyses, the autoregressor in kindergarten was a significant predictor of every model predicting first- grade reading comprehension. The domain-specific analy- ses identified as significant predictors, narrative discourse (episodes, R 2 = .06) and metalinguistics (phonological awareness, R 2 = .08) beyond the autoregressive effect of print awareness. Beyond the autoregressor, the only signifi- cant variable from the background domain was family liter- acy (R 2 = .08). For structural language, significant predic- tors were oral receptive (R 2 = .05), expressive vocabulary (R 2 = .02), and word retrieval (R 2 = .08). The final model tested the effects of these variables and the autoregressor (print awareness). The parsimonious model retained print awareness, F(1, 42) = 37.5, p < .0001; oral vocabulary, F(1, 42) = 4.2, p < .05; narrative episodes, F(1, 42) = 16.4, p < .001; and family literacy, F(1, 42) = 9.3, p < .01, with a total R 2 = .74 (see Table 6).

Predicting Second-Grade Reading From Kindergarten

In this section, we report the results of regression analy- ses that explored the prediction of second-grade reading from variables assessed in kindergarten The unique and overall R values, standardized beta weights, and t ratios for

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Table 5.—Correlations for Oral Language, Background, and Reading Variables: Kindergarten to First and Second Grades

 

First grade

 

Second grade

Kindergarten variable

WR

PR

RC

WR

PR

RC

Receptive vocabulary Oral vocabulary Word retrieval Receptive morphology and syntax Expressive morphology and syntax Phonemic awareness (elision + blending) Ambiguous sentences Figurative language Propositions Episodes Story comprehension Print awareness Word reading Pseudoword reading Nonverbal intelligence Family literacy

.43

.38

.38

.47

.45

.51

.56

.48

.53

.65

.58

.70

.68

.62

.68

.72

.64

.76

.68

.58

.59

.70

.68

.72

.66

.58

.66

.58

.55

.58

.77

.80

.71

.78

.78

.66

.58

.48

.51

.65

.60

.60

.40

.29

.47

.44

.41

.51

–.16

–.17

–.22

–.07

.02

.06

–.16

–.18

–.24

–.06

.00

.08

.34

.24

.38

.42

.31

.56

.76

.66

.74

.73

.70

.70

.79

.75

.78

.65

.62

.58

.66

.76

.64

.53

.56

.39

.47

.44

.48

.42

.38

.38

.50

.40

.50

.52

.44

.58

Note. WR = word reading; PR = pseudoword reading; RC = reading comprehension.

 

Table 6.—Parsimonious Models: Kindergarten to First Grade

 
 

R 2

Unique

Criterion

(overall)

Predictor

 

Std. β

t ratio

R 2

Pseudoword reading

.80

.75

.74

Word Attack in kindergarten Phonological awareness IQ Family literacy Word reading in kindergarten Phonological awareness Ambiguous sentences Print awareness Oral vocabulary Narrative episodes Family literacy

.54

5.20***

.15

.29

2.59*

.04

.22

2.73*

.04

.19

2.42*

.06

Word reading

.49

4.73***

.13

.29

2.58*

.04

.25

2.87**

.05

Reading comprehension

.56

6.10***

.25

.20

2.05*

.03

–.34

–4.00***

.11

.30

3.00***

.06

Note. Std. = standard. Overall R 2 was adjusted for number of variables in the model. Unique R 2 is the variance accounted for by the predictor variable when entered last. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

each variable in the parsimonious regression models are contained in Table 7. The test statistics for the parsimonious models are presented in the text. Pseudoword reading. There were no significant kinder- garten predictors of second-grade pseudoword reading scores for the domains of narrative discourse and back- ground variables beyond the influence of the autoregressor (pseudoword reading score in kindergarten). Within the domain of metalinguistics, phonological awareness alone (i.e., the autoregressor was nonsignificant) was significant, accounting for 61% of the variance. Within structural lan- guage, comprehension of syntax was significant, account- ing for 23% of the variance in pseudoword reading beyond the effect of the autoregressor. The final model tested included the autoregressor, phonological awareness, and

comprehension of syntax. The parsimonious model includ- ed only phonological awareness, F(1, 37) = 59.67, p < .0001, R 2 = .61. Word reading. The significant variables and unique vari- ances (R 2 ) for the domain-specific analyses of word reading were as follows: background (race, R 2 = .14 beyond the effect of the autoregressor); metalinguistics (phonological awareness, R 2 = .60 with nonsignificant autoregressor effect); and word retrieval (R 2 = .16 beyond the effect of the autoregressor). There were no significant predictors from the domain of narrative discourse. The final model included the significant domain variables and the autoregressor (word reading) measured in kindergarten. The parsimonious model retained only phonological awareness, F(1, 37) = 59.35, p < .0001, R 2 = .61.

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The Journal of Educational Research

Table 7.—Parsimonious Models: Kindergarten to Second Grade

R 2

Unique

Criterion

(overall)

Predictor

Std. β

t ratio

R 2

Pseudoword reading

.61

Phonological awareness

.78

7.72***

.61

Word reading

.60

Phonological awareness

.78

7.70***

.60

Reading comprehension

.71

Print awareness

.28

2.36*

.04

 

Oral vocabulary

.36

3.39**

.09

Word retrieval

.36

2.78**

.06

Note. Std. = standard. Overall R 2 was adjusted for number of variables in the model. Unique R 2 is the variance accounted for by the predictor variable when entered last. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

Reading comprehension. Print awareness (TERA-2) was used as the autoregressor for second-grade reading compre- hension because we did not administer the reading compre- hension subtest in kindergarten. The correlation between the kindergarten TERA-2 scores and second-grade reading comprehension was .72, making it a reasonable surrogate. Phonological awareness significantly predicted reading comprehension (R 2 = .04) independent of the autoregressor. Story comprehension was a significant narrative predictor of reading comprehension (R 2 = .05) also independent of the autoregressor. The only significant predictor for the background domain independent of the autoregressor was race (R 2 = .06). Oral vocabulary (R 2 = .09) and word retrieval (R 2 = .06) were significant. The final model includ- ed these variables and the autoregressor. The domain-spe- cific significant variables for metalinguistics were kinder- garten phonemic awareness, ambiguous sentences, and figurative language (R 2 = .39, .69, and .75, respectively). The parsimonious models retained print awareness, oral vocabulary, and word retrieval, but not race, F(3, 35) = 31.55, p < .0001, R 2 = .71 (see Table 7).

Discussion

This longitudinal study was undertaken to clarify the developmental relationship between oral language and beginning reading. We measured a broad range of receptive and expressive skills in a group of normally developing kindergarten children to understand the predictive relation- ship between oral language skills measured in kindergarten and reading performance in first and second grades. As expected, phonological awareness skill measured in kinder- garten predicted word and pseudoword reading in first and second grades. What is more interesting is what phonologi- cal awareness does not predict: reading comprehension in first and second grades. The results of multidomain predic- tive models indicate that semantic abilities, in conjunction with the autoregressor, were most predictive of first- and second-grade reading comprehension; phonological aware- ness contributed no unique variance. Thus, oral language ability contributes to early reading skill in ways other than through the influence of phonological awareness. The pro-

portions of unique variance are small, but they are the con- sequence of a stringent data analysis plan. Even so, a post hoc analysis showed substantial shared variance between oral language variables other than phonological awareness. Specifically, oral vocabulary and word retrieval together accounted for 23% of the variance in second-grade reading comprehension beyond the influence of kindergarten print awareness skill. The following discussion addresses the results for each of the three oral language domains exam- ined in this study as well as developmental and method- ological issues.

Structural Language

A major finding of this study was that semantic knowl- edge, as measured by word definitions and word retrieval, in combination with kindergarten print awareness, was a more potent predictor of reading comprehension in first and second grades than was phonological awareness. Although phonological awareness was highly predictive of word and pseudoword reading ability in second grade, it did not pre- dict reading comprehension. Torgesen, Wagner, Rashotte, Burgess, and Hecht (1997) reported a modest but significant proportion of unique variance associated with phonological awareness in the prediction of reading comprehension. Their analysis, however, was based on increases in reading comprehension between the second and fourth grades. The present findings indicate that different aspects of oral lan- guage are important for different reading tasks during the development of early reading skill. The two semantic skills that were important for reading comprehension were oral definitions and word retrieval. According to Snow (1991), Dickinson and Snow (1987), and Snow, Tabors, Nicholson, and Kurland (1995), the abil- ity to define a word is a decontextualized language skill in that it necessitates distancing oneself from language and talking about the world beyond the “here and now.” Thus, word definitions can be considered a higher level semantic skill than concrete (i.e., labeling) vocabulary knowledge because one must be able to reflect on the lexicon and state explicitly what is known implicitly (Watson, 1985). Snow and colleagues found evidence that decontextualized lan-

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guage skills are strongly correlated with children’s subse- quent reading and spelling achievement (Snow, Cancino, Gonzalez, & Shriberg, 1989). More recently, Snow and col- leagues (1995) showed that oral definitions measured in kindergarten and first grade were the strongest oral lan- guage predictors of all three forms of literacy tested (word decoding, reading comprehension, and spelling) within and across grades. Other language skills measured were vocab- ulary, narrative discourse, knowledge of superordinates, and listening comprehension. Our finding that oral definitions was a significant predictor of reading comprehension pro- vides support for Snow’s hypothesis that decontextualized language is important to reading comprehension ability as children move into middle elementary school grades and skilled reading begins to emerge. Word retrieval measured in kindergarten was the other aspect of semantics that combined with oral definitions to predict reading comprehension in second grade. In the pres-

ent study, we measured word retrieval using a confrontation naming (CN) task in which the children were required to name individually presented pictures of familiar objects in an untimed format. Our results are consistent with previous reports regarding the relationship between word finding and reading ability that also used a CN task (Catts, 1993; Troia, Roth, & Yeni-Komshian, 1996; Wolf, 1991). It is important to note that, in this study, word retrieval was conceptualized as

a measure of semantic knowledge, that of lexical naming

accuracy. However, word retrieval also involves a phonolog- ical processing component. The ability to successfully access words from one’s mental lexicon relies, in part, on the effi- ciency with which information is phonologically coded in memory (Baddeley, 1984). So, in the case of word retrieval as measured in this study, it is probably most accurate to con- clude that its influence on reading comprehension represents

a confluence of semantic and phonological knowledge. Although our findings indicate that semantic language skills have a direct link with early reading acquisition, the precise nature of the relationship is still unresolved in that the structural language variables were measured only in kindergarten. It will be important to investigate the pattern of influence of semantic and syntactic skills on reading in the primary grades as children begin to receive formal read- ing instruction and gain proficiency in decoding.

Metalinguistics

The findings are consistent with previous work in that phonological awareness measured in kindergarten predicted first- and second-grade word identification and pseudoword reading. Because the autoregressors were not significant at second grade, our results also showed that phonological awareness was a better predictor of second-grade perfor- mance than was word decoding or pseudoword reading measured in kindergarten. This latter finding is similar to that of Wagner and colleagues (1994) who reported that kindergarten phonological awareness exerted a significant

influence on second-grade word-level reading, whereas the autoregressor did not. The data also support our hypothesis that metalinguistic skills in addition to phonoloigcal awareness were signifi- cant correlates of beginning reading. Metasemantic skill measured via comprehension and production of lexically ambiguous sentences contributed unique variance to first- grade word reading equal to that contributed by phonologi- cal awareness. The inference is that the ability to manipu- late the meaning component of language is one of the significant indicators of single-word reading in first grade.

Narrative Discourse

On the basis of the extant literature, we anticipated that narrative discourse would increasingly account for variance in reading comprehension between kindergarten and second grade as children master single-word reading and begin to read connected text for meaning. However, we found that narrative skill measured in kindergarten accounted for unique variance in reading comprehension in first grade but not second grade. Further examination of the kinder- garten–first grade relationship revealed that the bivariate correlation was negative (r = –.24). Our results may indicate that conventional thinking regarding the presumed role of narrative discourse in literacy acquisition is inaccurate (Bashir & Scavuzzo, 1992; Klecan-Aker & Kelty, 1990; Westby, 1984, 1991). It is possible that task-related variables such as the types of elicitation tasks and coding procedures used affected the outcome. However, the narrative measure was selected on the basis of its sensitivity to narrative per- formance differences between school-aged students with and without learning disabilities (Roth & Spekman, 1986). It may be that reading at the end of second grade is still primarily a decoding task, and narrative skill may become more important when children become more skilled readers. This explanation is supported by Snyder and Downey (1991) who found that narrative discourse skill accounted for a sig- nificant proportion of variance in reading comprehension in normally developing 8-to-11-year-old children, and explained an even higher proportion of unique reading com- prehension variance in their older group of normal achievers who ranged between 11 and 14 years of age. Still, the likeli- hood of a strong connection between oral narration and read- ing is diminished by the finding that lexical-level skills were significant predictors of text-level reading, whereas oral nar- ration showed no relationship to text-level reading.

Developmental Issues

Scarborough (1998) noted that the predictors of reading will likely change depending on the time periods during which the independent and dependent measures are collect- ed. Our results bear this out. We found that a semantic skill measured in kindergarten accounted for unique variance in first-grade, but not second-grade word reading. Another

270

kindergarten semantic skill (word retrieval) accounted for unique variance in second-grade, but not first-grade reading comprehension. The role of the background variables and the autoregressors also varied in the prediction of first- and second-grade reading. In each first-grade parsimonious model, the autoregressors accounted for the most unique variance in reading skill. In addition, the influence of the background variables was evident at first grade but not at sec- ond grade. Family literacy was a significant predictor for both pseudoword reading and reading comprehension, and IQ also significantly predicted pseudoword reading. Howev- er, these results did not hold for second grade, wherein nei- ther the autoregressors nor background variables accounted for unique variance. We speculate that the background vari- ables served as a springboard for acquiring first-grade read- ing skills but then were mediated by the effects of instruction, the further development of oral language, and increased skill in reading. Further elaboration of these relationships and their implications for instruction are warranted.

Methodological Issues

This study provides longitudinal evidence that oral lan- guage variables other than phonological awareness are pre- dictive of beginning reading for both word-level reading and text comprehension. When considered in the context of the existing literature, our findings both mirror and chal- lenge previous work and assumptions. Most discrepant from previous assertions is the absence of data to support the presumed influence of narrative discourse on reading comprehension. The pattern of results may reflect the use of a stringent analysis strategy, which may be due, in part, to the frame- work of oral language adopted in this study. The strategy first identified significant variables within each domain (i.e., structural language, metalinguistics, and narrative dis- course) and then placed that set of significant predictors in a final regression model to seek the parsimonious solution. The aim in the search for parsimony is to find a simple solu- tion that does not oversimplify a complex process. This strategy provides more specificity to an understanding of the relationship between oral language and reading. Further, the autoregressors for each dependent variable were entered prior to the oral language variables. Previous studies typi- cally measured oral language skills without the benefit of a multiple-domain approach and without assessing the autoregressive effects of earlier reading skills on later read- ing skills. Nevertheless, our within-domain analyses mirror some of the findings of these earlier studies. For example, in the structural language domain, comprehension of syntax (TACL-R) accounted for unique variance in second-grade word reading (Vellutino et al., 1991). Also, word retrieval explained unique variance in second-grade word reading (cf. Wolf, 1991). It is possible that the exclusion of the autoregressor would have identified more oral language variables (e.g., narrative discourse) and/or increased the

The Journal of Educational Research

variance attributed to the language variables. However, the unique influence of syntax and word retrieval is diminished in the presence of (a) phonological awareness in the predic- tion of word-level reading skills and (b) semantics and metasemantics in the prediction of reading comprehension. The discrepancies also may be due, in part, to the frame- work of oral language adopted in this study. Our approach represents a departure from methods in which one or two measures were used to represent language skill. Ricard and Snow (1990) cautioned against using a single measure to assess oral language skill, suggesting that different tasks reflect different levels of proficiency. The framework adopt- ed in this study regards language as a complex system of skills that interact and overlap with one another but assumes that different tasks measure different aspects of language. Accordingly, we examined a broad range of language vari- ables within different components of the linguistic system. In addition, there are different perspectives regarding which variables require inclusion in an examination of the oral lan- guage–reading connection. Catts et al. (1999), for instance, argued that IQ, particularly full-scale IQ, should not be con- trolled because it is a general variable whose connection with reading is not specific or clear. The differential selec- tion of variables to be controlled across studies has con- tributed to the diverse results obtained (Roth et al., 1996; Roth, Cooper, & Speece, 1999). On the basis of the present findings, semantic and metasemantic variables, in addition to phonological awareness, appear to be the best candidates to elaborate the oral language–early reading connection.

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