A Cognitive and Linguistic Approach to Predicting and Remediating Word Reading Difficulties in Young Readers

  • Shelley ShaulEmail author
  • Tami Katzir
  • Liron Primor
  • Orly Lipka
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 13)


Most research on the development of reading has focused on linguistic abilities, such as naming and phonological awareness, and their role in reading, recent studies have found several specific cognitive dimensions to be associated with the development of early decoding and word recognition skills such as visual attention span, working memory and executive functions. The current study examined the connection between cognitive abilities and reading at the beginning of first grade and at the end of first grade after an intervention program. As well as the cognitive and linguistic profile of children who benefited most from the intervention.

Strong correlations between several cognitive skills, such as memory, executive skills, speed of processing, and other aspects of general ability and word reading at the beginning and end of grade were found among Hebrew speaking. In addition children with low phonological processing and slow naming benefited and low memory skills the least from the intervention program.

This study has advanced us towards a complex model of word reading difficulties in young children. Furthermore, the results demonstrate universal cognitive processes that are necessary in order to acquire adequate reading development as well as language specific cognitive processes.


Reading Decoding Intervention program Cognitive abilities Linguistic abilities 


  1. Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Badian, N. A. (1995). Predicting reading ability over the long term: The changing roles of letter naming, phonological awareness and orthographic processing. Annals of Dyslexia, 45, 79–96. doi: 10.1007/BF02648213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bell, S. M., McCallum, R. S., & Cox, E. A. (2003). Toward a research-based assessment of dyslexia using cognitive measures to identify reading disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(6), 505–516. doi: 10.1177/00222194030360060201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beneventi, H., Tøønnessen, F. E., Ersland, L., & Hugdahl, K. (2010). Working memory deficit in dyslexia: Behavioral and fMRI evidence. International Journal of Neuroscience, 120(1), 51–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berninger, V. W., Raskind, W., Richards, T., Abbott, R., & Stock, P. (2008). A multidisciplinary approach to understanding developmental dyslexia within working-memory architecture: Genotypes, phenotypes, brain, and instruction. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33(6), 707–744. doi: 10.1080/87565640802418662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berry, K. E., & Beery, M. N. A. (2006). The Berry-Buktenica developmental test of visual-motor integration with supplemental developmental test of visual perception and motor coordination. Minneapolis, MN: Pearson Assessments.Google Scholar
  7. Brunswick, N., Martin, G. N., & Rippon, G. (2012). Early cognitive profiles of emergent readers: A longitudinal study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 111, 268–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bull, R., Espy, K. A., & Wiebe, S. A. (2008). Short-term memory, working memory, and executive functioning in preschoolers: Longitudinal predictors of mathematical achievement at age 7 years. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33(3), 205–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cartwright, K. B. (2012). Insights from cognitive neuroscience: The importance of executive function for early reading development and education. Early Education and Development, 23(1), 24–36. doi: 10.1080/10409289.2011.615025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cutting, L. E., Materek, A., Cole, C. A., Levine, T. M., & Mahone, E. M. (2009). Effects of fluency, oral language, and executive function on reading comprehension performance. Annals of Dyslexia, 59(1), 34–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. de Lima, R. F., Azoni, C. A. S., & Ciasca, S. M. (2013). Attentional and executive deficits in Brazilian children with developmental dyslexia. Psychology, 4(10), 1–6. Scholar
  12. Dehaene, S., Cohen, L., Morais, J., & Kolinsky, R. (2015). Illiterate to literate: Behavioural and cerebral changes induced by reading acquisition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(4), 234–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Denton, C. A., Tolar, T. D., Fletcher, J. M., Barth, A. E., Vaughn, S., & Francis, D. J. (2012). Effects of tier 3 intervention for students with persistent reading difficulties and characteristics of inadequate responders. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 633–648. doi: 10.1037/a0032581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehri, L. C. (2014). Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Feitelson, D. (1988). Facts and fads in beginning reading. New York, NY: Ablex.Google Scholar
  16. Fiorello, C. A., Hale, J. B., & Snyder, L. E. (2006). Cognitive hypothesis testing and response to intervention for children with reading problems. Psychology in the Schools, 43(8), 835–853. doi: 10.1002/pits.20192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fletcher, J. M., Stuebing, K. K., Barth, A. E., Denton, C. A., Cirino, P. T., Francis, D. J., et al. (2011). Cognitive correlates of inadequate response to reading intervention. School Psychology Review, 40, 3–22. Retrieved from Scholar
  18. Fletcher, J. M., & Vaughn, S. (2009). Response to intervention: Preventing and remediating academic difficulties. Child Development Perspectives, 3, 30–37. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2008.00072.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Franceschini, S., Gori, S., Ruffino, M., Pedrolli, K., & Facoetti, A. (2012). A causal link between visual spatial attention and reading acquisition. Current Biology, 22(9), 814–819. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fuchs, D., Compton, D. L., Fuchs, L. S., Bryant, J., & Davis, G. N. (2008). Making “secondary intervention” work in a three-tier responsiveness-to-intervention model: Findings from the first-grade longitudinal reading study of the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities. Reading and Writing, 21(4), 413–436. doi: 10.1007/s11145-007-9083-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fuchs, L. S., & Vaughn, S. (2012). Responsiveness-to-intervention a decade later. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(3), 195–203. doi: 10.1177/0022219412442150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Georgiou, G. K., Das, J. P., & Hayward, D. V. (2008). Comparing the contribution of two tests of working memory to reading in relation to phonological awareness and rapid naming speed. Journal of Research in Reading, 31(3), 302–318. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9817.2008.00373.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Georgiou, G. K., Parrila, R., & Papadopoulos, T. C. (2008). Predictors of word decoding and reading fluency across languages varying in orthographic consistency. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3), 566. Scholar
  24. Greulich, L., Al Otaiba, S., Schatschneider, C., Wanzek, J., Ortiz, M., & Wagner, R. K. (2014). Understanding inadequate response to first-grade multi-tier intervention nomothetic and ideographic perspectives. Learning Disability Quarterly, 37, 129–133. doi: 10.1177/0731948714526999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hale, J. B., & Fiorello, C. A. (2004). School neuropsychology: A practitioner’s handbook. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hale, J. B., Naglieri, J. A., Kaufman, A. S., & Kavale, K. A. (2004). Specific learning disability classification in the new individuals with disabilities education act: The danger of good ideas. The School Psychologist, 58(1), 6–13.Google Scholar
  27. Katzir, T., Lesaux, N. K., & Kim, Y. S. (2009). The role of reading self-concept and home literacy practices in fourth grade reading comprehension. Reading and Writing, 22(3), 261–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Katzir, T., Schiff, R., & Kim, Y. S. (2012). The effects of orthographic consistency on reading development: A within and between cross-linguistic study of fluency and accuracy among fourth grade English-and Hebrew-speaking children. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(6), 673–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Katzir, T., Shaul, S., Breznitz, Z., & Wolf, M. (2004). The universal and the unique in dyslexia: A cross-linguistic investigation of reading and reading fluency in Hebrew-and English-speaking children with reading disorders. Reading and Writing, 17(7–8), 739–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (2004). Kaufman assessment battery for children–second edition (K-ABC-II). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  31. Kim, Y. S., & Pallante, D. (2012). Predictors of reading skills for kindergartners and first grade students in Spanish: A longitudinal study. Reading & Writing, 25(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lervag, A., Braten, I., & Hulme, C. (2009). The cognitive and linguistic foundations of early reading development: A Norwegian latent variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 45(3), 764–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Levin, I., Shatil-Carmon, S., & Asif-Rave, O. (2006). Learning of letter names and sounds and their contribution to word recognition. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 93(2), 139–165. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2005.08.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lipka, O., Katzir, T., & Shaul, S. (In Preparation). A multicomponent intervention program: Literacy, cognition and emotion.Google Scholar
  35. Lipka, O., Lesaux, N. K., & Siegel, L. S. (2006). Retrospective analyses of the reading development of grade 4 students with reading disabilities risk status and profiles over 5 years. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(4), 364–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCallum, R. S., Bell, S. M., Wood, M. S., Below, J. L., Choate, S. M., & McCane, S. J. (2006). What is the role of working memory in reading relative to the big three processing variables (orthography, phonology, and rapid naming)? Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 24(3), 243–259. doi: 10.1177/0734282906287938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McInerney, R. J., Hrabok, M., & Kerns, K. A. (2005). The children’s size-ordering task: A new measure of nonverbal working memory. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 27, 735–745. doi: 10.1081/13803390490918633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Melby-Lervåg, M., Lyster, S. A. H., & Hulme, C. (2012). Phonological skills and their role in learning to read: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 138(2), 322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Molfese, P. J., Fletcher, J. M., & Denton, C. A. (2013). Adequate versus inadequate response to reading intervention: An event-related potentials assessment. Developmental Neuropsychology, 38(8), 534–549. doi: 10.1080/87565641.2013.825260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Muter, V., Hulme, C., Snowling, M., & Stevenson, J. (2004). Phonemes, rimes, vocabulary, and grammatical skills as foundations of early reading development: Evidence from a longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 40, 665–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nevo, E., & Breznitz, Z. (2011). Assessment of working memory components at 6 years of age as predictors of reading achievements a year later. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 109(1), 73–90. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.09.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nevo, E., & Breznitz, Z. (2013). The development of working memory from kindergarten to first grade in children with different decoding skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114(2), 217–228. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2012.09.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Partanen, M., & Siegel, L. S. (2014). Long-term outcome of the early identification and intervention of reading disabilities. Reading and Writing, 27(4), 665–684. doi: 10.1007/s11145-013-9472-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Perfetti, C. A., & Hart, L. (2002). The lexical quality hypothesis. In L. Vehoeven, C. Elbro, & P. Reitsma (Eds.), Precursors of functional literacy (pp. 189–213). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ponitz, C. C., McClelland, M. M., Matthews, J. S., & Morrison, F. J. (2009). A structured observation of behavioral self-regulation and its contribution to kindergarten outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 45, 605–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ramey, C. T., & Ramey, S. L. (2004). Early learning and school readiness: Can early intervention make a difference? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 50(4), 471–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Reiter, A., Tucha, O., & Lange, K. W. (2005). Executive functions in children with dyslexia. Dyslexia, 11(2), 116–131. doi: 10.1002/dys.289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Roberts, R., & Mather, N. (1997). Orthographic dyslexia: The neglected subtype. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 12, 236–250.Google Scholar
  49. Sampson, G. (1985). Writing systems: A linguistic introduction. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Scarborough, H. S. (1998). Predicting the future achievement of second graders with reading disabilities: Contributions of phonemic awareness, verbal memory, rapid naming, and IQ. Annals of Dyslexia, 48(1), 115–136. doi: 10.1007/s11881-998-0006-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schatschneider, C., Carlson, C. D., Francis, D. J., Foorman, B. R., & Fletcher, J. M. (2002). Relationship of rapid automatized naming and phonological awareness in early reading development: Implications for the double-deficit hypothesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35(3), 245–256. doi: 10.1177/002221940203500306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schiff, R., Kahta, S., & Katzir, T. (2006). Single-word reading test: Vowelized and unvowelized word reading. Ramat-Gan: Unpublished manuscript, Haddad Center, Bar-Ilan University.Google Scholar
  53. Schwartz, M. (2006). The impact of literacy acquisition in L1 Russian on literacy acquisition in L2 Hebrew and in L3 English among Russian-speaking (L1) children: Bi-literate bilingualism versus mono-literate bilingualism. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, [in Hebrew], Department of Education, University of Haifa, Israel.Google Scholar
  54. Sénéchal, M., & Young, L. (2008). The effect of family literacy interventions on children’s acquisition of reading from kindergarten to grade 3: A meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 880–907. doi: 10.3102/0034654308320319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shany, M. & Ben-Dror, I., (1998) A test of phonological awareness for children. Unpublished test. Haifa, Israel.Google Scholar
  56. Shany, M., Lachman, D., Shalem, Z., Bahat, A., & Zieger, T. (2006). “Aleph-Taph” a test for the diagnosis of reading and writing disabilities, based on national Israeli norms. Tel Aviv, Israel: Yesod Publishing.Google Scholar
  57. Share, D. L. (1995). Phonological recoding and self-teaching: Sine qua non of reading acquisition. Cognition, 55, 151–218. doi: 10.1016/0010-0277(94)00645-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Share, D. L. (2004). Knowing letter names and learning letter sounds: A causal connection. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 88, 213–233. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2004.03.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Share, D. L. (2008). On the anglocentricities of current reading research and practice: The perils of overreliance on an “outlier” orthography. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 584–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Share, D. L., Jorm, A. F., Maclean, R., & Matthews, R. (1984). Sources of individual differences in reading acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 1309–1324. Scholar
  61. Share, D. L., & Levin, I. (1999). Learning to read and write in Hebrew. In M. Harris & G. Hatano (Eds.), Learning to read and write: A cross linguistic perspective (pp. 89–111). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Shatil, E. (1995). Predicting reading ability: Evidence for cognitive modularity. Ph.D thesis, University of Haifa.Google Scholar
  63. Shaul, S., & Schwartz, M. (2014). The role of the executive functions in school readiness among preschool-age children. Reading and Writing, 27(4), 749–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Smith-Spark, J. H., & Fisk, J. E. (2007). Working memory functioning in developmental dyslexia. Memory, 15, 34–56. doi: 10.1080/09658210601043384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Snowling, M. J., & Hulme, C. (2014). Closing a virtuous circle: Reciprocal influences between theory and practice in studies of reading intervention. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 7(3), 300–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stuebing, K. K., Barth, A. E., Trahan, L. H., Reddy, R. R., Miciak, J., Fletcher, J. M. (2014). Are child cognitive characteristics strong predictors of responses to intervention? A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 0034654314555996. doi: 10.3102/0034654314555996.Google Scholar
  67. Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). The test of word reading efficiency. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.Google Scholar
  68. Valdois, S., Bosse, M. L., & Tainturier, M. J. (2004). The cognitive deficits responsible for developmental dyslexia: Review of evidence for a selective visual attentional disorder. Dyslexia, 10(4), 339–363. doi: 10.1002/dys.284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Vellutino, F. R., Scanlon, D. M., Sipay, E. R., Small, S. R., Pratt, A., Chen, R., et al. (1996). Cognitive profiles of difficult-to-remediate and readily remediated poor readers: Early intervention as a vehicle for distinguishing between cognitive and experiential deficits as basic causes of specific reading disability. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 601–638. Scholar
  70. Vellutino, F. R., Fletcher, J. M., Snowling, M. J., & Scanlon, D. M. (2004). Specific reading disability (dyslexia): What have we learned in the past four decades? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 2–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1994). Development of reading-related phonological processing abilities: New evidence of bidirectional causality from a latent variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 30(1), 73. Scholar
  72. Wolf, M., Bally, H., & Morris, R. (1986). Automaticity, retrieval processes, and reading: A longitudinal study in average and impaired readers. Child Development, 988–1000. Retrieved from
  73. Ziegler, J. C., Bertrand, D., Tóth, D., Csépe, V., Reis, A., Faísca, L., … & Blomert, L. (2010). Orthographic depth and its impact on universal predictors of reading a cross-language investigation. Psychological Science, 21, 551–559.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelley Shaul
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tami Katzir
    • 1
  • Liron Primor
    • 1
  • Orly Lipka
    • 1
  1. 1.Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center, Department of Learning DisabilitiesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations