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The development of basic reading skills in children: a cross-language perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2002

Esther Geva
Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Min Wang
Learning Research and Development CenterUniversity of Pittsburgh


This chapter reviews recent empirical evidence for universal and orthography- or language-specific processes in the development of basic reading skills in school age children, suggesting that universal and orthography- or language-specific processes should be considered in tandem. The review focuses on three different aspects of reading, phonological processing, rapid naming, and morphosyntactic complexity, targeted in recent research on development of word recognition skills. Studies on L1 school children and studies of children who learn to read concurrently in their L1 and/or in a second language (L2) are examined within the context of variations in orthographic transparency. When children learn to read, characteristics of the spoken language interact with characteristics of the orthography. The chapter concludes that (a) individual differences in phonological processing skills, verbal memory, and rapid naming predict the development of reading in L1 and L2 children in various alphabetic and nonalphabetic languages; and (b) individual differences on such prerequisite skills can indicate smooth or problematic acquisition of L2 reading skills in children, regardless of oral language proficiency. However, task demands associated with learning to read in different orthographies vary and yield steeper or more moderate learning slopes. Regardless of the language and orthography combinations under study, children can develop reading strategies that help them read.

© 2001 Cambridge University Press

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