Research on reading acquisition and on the processes underlying it usually examined reading orally, while silent reading, which is the more common mode of reading, has been rather neglected. As accumulated data suggests that these two modes of reading only partially overlap, our understanding of the natural mode of reading may still be limited. The present study was set out to explore the underlying skills of reading acquisition examined using silent measures of reading. To this end, children acquiring reading of the phonologically transparent vowelized Hebrew orthography were followed from kindergarten to the 2nd grade. The relations between a range of verbal and visual-spatial skills with measures of silent reading were tested. Phonological awareness, RAN and vocabulary explained a significant amount of variance in fluency in word recognition and in fluency in decoding of pseudo-homophones, while visual speed of processing of numeric symbols explained a notable amount of variance in fluency in word recognition only. Phonological awareness, morphological awareness and phonological working memory were the main skills explaining the variance in reading comprehension. The relations of these skills with the quality of oral reading have been widely established in the reading literature. Furthermore, a similar developmental picture was obtained in the relations between some of these skills and silent reading, as was found with oral reading. Therefore the role of these skills in reading may not be restricted to a certain mode of reading. Also consistent with findings on oral reading, the role of the visual non-orthographic skills in the measures of silent reading was insignificant to very small. Together these results imply that the processes underlying measures of silent reading are not substantially different from the ones underlying measures of oral reading, at least not at the early stages of reading acquisition of a transparent orthography.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.