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Reading Development in Elementary School

Literacy is essential in the modern world, both for personal satisfaction and for employment success in a knowledge-based economy. Mastering literacy is one of the most important challenges children face in their early school years. A great deal of research in the last two decades has uncovered a number of the key cognitive and instructional characteristics that contribute to learning to read. Among these, one of the most prominent and powerful is phonological awareness, the oral language ability to perceive and manipulate the sound components of words. Many studies have shown that children with low levels of phonological awareness are at risk for reading failure, and that instruction in phonological awareness contributes to increased reading ability. But phonological awareness does not tell the complete story of learning to read. In recent years researchers have begun to propose other characteristics that affect reading development.

The purpose of the proposed program of research is to deepen our understanding of the factors that contribute to the development of reading competence across different orthographies by expanding the number of cognitive factors considered, examining how these factors are related to each other (both concurrently and across years), and determining how these processes influence word reading and reading comprehension. To accomplish our objectives, we will will investigate home literacy, phonological awareness, naming speed (the speed with which children can name sets of stimuli), orthographic processing (their ability to remember and make use of recurrent letter sequences), and morphological processing (the ability to recognise and make use of the smallest units of meaning within words) both within and across different languages.


1. Develop a comprehensive battery of measures of phonological awareness, naming speed, orthographic and morphological processing.

2. Investigate the cross-linguistic, cross-sectional, and developmental relations among these measures/constructs in a sample of children as they proceed from grade 3 (age 8) to grade 5 (age 10).

3. To investigate how context (home literacy, language that is being learned) affects the relationhip between differnet predictors and reading skills.


Killam Research Fund
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


John Kirby, Queen's University
Lesly Wade-Woolley, Queen's University
Chen-Huei Liao, Chengchou Institute of Technology
Kathy Stephenson, University of Alberta
Helene Deacon, Dalhousie University
George Manolitsis, Univeristy of Crete
Timos Papadopoulos, University of Cyprus


Liao, C.-H., Georgiou, G., & Parrila, R. (in press). Rapid naming speed and Chinese character recognition. Reading & Writing.

Roman, A., Parrila, R., Kirby, J. R., Wade-Woolley, L., & Deacon, S. H. (in press). Towards a comprehensive view of the skills involved in word reading in grades 4, 6, and 8. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Georgiou, G. K., Parrila, R., & Papadopoulos, T. C. (in press). Predictors of word decoding and reading fluency across languages varying in orthographic consistency. Journal of Educational Psychology.

Georgiou, G., Parrila, R., & Liao, C,-H., (in press). Rapid naming speed and reading across languages that vary in orthographic consistency. Reading & Writing.

Georgiou, G., Parrila, R., Kirby, J. R. & Stephenson, K. (in press). Rapid naming components and their relationship with phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge, speed of processing, and different reading outcomes. Scientific Studies of Reading.

Stephenson, K. A., Parrila, R. K., Georgiou, G. K. (2008). Effects of Home Literacy, Parents’ Beliefs, and Children’s Task-Focused Behaviour on Emergent Literacy and Word Reading Skills. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12, 24-50.

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