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Phonological abilities and their roles in reading and spelling - differences between boys and girls : a longitudinal study of beginning readers

Drinkwater, Lenore Christine 2004 , 'Phonological abilities and their roles in reading and spelling - differences between boys and girls : a longitudinal study of beginning readers', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Differences between boys and girls in the development of phonological
abilities and in the roles played by rhyme awareness and phonemic awareness in
reading and spelling acquisition were examined in this longitudinal study of beginning
readers. Participants were 153 children (81 boys and 72 girls, mean age 5 years, 10
months at the commencement of the study) from a cross section of socio-economic
areas in Southern Tasmania. The children were assessed within three months of
starting their first year at school on a number of pre-literacy and cognitive measures,
and again at the end of their first (N = 140) and second (N= 127) years of school on
tasks measuring phonological abilities, reading, spelling, and attention. Rhyme
detection and rhyme production tasks were used to measure rhyme awareness (the
ability to isolate rhymes within words). Phoneme deletion tasks were used to measure
phonemic awareness (the ability to isolate individual phonemes within words).
Recent findings across Australia indicate that girls are outperforming boys in
reading, achieving up to five percentage points higher than boys in the Year 3 and
Year 5 Literacy Benchmark Tests (House of Representatives Standing Committee on
Education and Training, 2000) however Alexander and Martin (2000) proposed that
such differences are restricted to those boys who are average to below average
readers. Neuroimaging and lesion studies (e.g., Pugh et al., 1997; Frith & VarghaKhadem,
2001) indicate that girls are more likely to engage the right hemisphere
whereas boys predominantly engage the left hemisphere of the brain in undertaking
phonological operations. Although the role played by the right hemisphere is
controversial Pugh et al. (1997) proposed that the right hemisphere processes sounds
at a fine-grained level whereas the left hemisphere engages in phonological processing using larger units of sound. This suggests that developing an awareness of phonemes may be a more difficult task for boys and rhyme awareness may play a
more important role in boys' early reading and spelling acquisition.
Results provided evidence that boys do not develop letter knowledge or
phonemic awareness as readily as girls who demonstrated significantly better letter
knowledge, phoneme deletion ability, and faster rapid automatised naming of letters
than boys. Differences in distributions for graphemic and phonemic awareness factor
scores (defined by high loadings from letter-name and letter-sound knowledge,
phoneme deletion and RAN of letters) across the three phases of the study indicated a
significant male disadvantage.
Concurrent and longitudinal hierarchical regression analyses indicated that
rhyme awareness played a direct role in reading and spelling acquisition for boys but
not girls. By the end of the second year there was a significantly greater proportion of
boys than girls in the bottom quartile of the score distributions for all the reading
measures with no differences in the top quartile. Boys were significantly poorer
spellers than girls at the end of both the first and second years of school, and also
showed significantly poorer ability to focus mental attention on a task. These findings provide evidence of significant differences between boys and
girls in the development of letter knowledge and phonemic awareness, and in the
direct role of rhyme awareness in their reading and spelling acquisition. They also
highlight important differences in the learning styles of the boys and girls in the study.
The results have important practical implications for providing the best learning
environments for boys and girls to develop reliable phonological skills. Theoretical
implications lie in extending understanding of the direct role of rhyme awareness in
beginning reading and spelling.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Drinkwater, Lenore Christine
Keywords: Reading, Psychology of, Spelling, Psychology of, Reading (Elementary), Students
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2004 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2004. Includes bibliographical references

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