Reading and Writing

, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 1387–1415 | Cite as

Minding morphology: How morphological awareness relates to reading for English language learners

  • Amanda P. Goodwin
  • A. Corinne Huggins
  • Maria S. Carlo
  • Diane August
  • Margarita Calderon


This study explored subprocesses of reading for 157 fifth grade Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs) by examining whether morphological awareness made a unique contribution to reading comprehension beyond a strong covariate-phonological decoding. The role of word reading and reading vocabulary as mediators of this relationship was also explored. Results showed that fourth grade morphological awareness did not make a significant unique direct effect on fifth grade reading comprehension, controlling for phonological decoding, word reading, and reading vocabulary. Fourth grade morphological awareness did, though, make a unique moderate total contribution to fifth grade reading comprehension with reading vocabulary, but not word reading, mediating the relationship when controlling for phonological decoding. In contrast, phonological decoding made a nonsignificant total contribution to reading comprehension with neither word reading nor reading vocabulary mediating the relationship when controlling for morphological awareness. Alternative models were also explored, showing the importance of including both predictors in a model of ELL reading comprehension, primarily to include the support of phonological decoding to word reading and the support of morphological awareness to reading comprehension via reading vocabulary. Results highlighted the importance of morphological awareness in facilitating reading comprehension via improving reading vocabulary knowledge, and also the potential of interventions involving morphological instruction to support reading achievement for Spanish-speaking ELLs.


Morphological awareness Phonological decoding Reading achievement Structural equation modeling English language learners 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Richard Anderson and Xiaoying Wu for their helpful feedback in reviewing an early draft of this manuscript. Their comments and insight have clarified and strengthened this manuscript. The work reported here was supported by Grant No. P01HD03950 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education and Grant No. ED-98-CO-0071 from the Office of English Language Acquisition, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of these agencies, and readers should not assume endorsement of these positions by the federal government. We are also grateful for the teachers, parents, and students in Boston, Chicago, and El Paso who participated in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda P. Goodwin
    • 1
  • A. Corinne Huggins
    • 2
  • Maria S. Carlo
    • 5
  • Diane August
    • 3
  • Margarita Calderon
    • 4
  1. 1.Vanderbilt University’s Peabody CollegeNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.University of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Center for Applied LinguisticsWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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