University of Tasmania
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Phonological abilities and their roles in reading and spelling - differences between boys and girls : a longitudinal study of beginning readers

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posted on 2023-05-26, 20:53 authored by Drinkwater, Lenore Christine
Differences between boys and girls in the development of phonological abilities and in the roles played by rhyme awareness and phonemic awareness in reading and spelling acquisition were examined in this longitudinal study of beginning readers. Participants were 153 children (81 boys and 72 girls, mean age 5 years, 10 months at the commencement of the study) from a cross section of socio-economic areas in Southern Tasmania. The children were assessed within three months of starting their first year at school on a number of pre-literacy and cognitive measures, and again at the end of their first (N = 140) and second (N= 127) years of school on tasks measuring phonological abilities, reading, spelling, and attention. Rhyme detection and rhyme production tasks were used to measure rhyme awareness (the ability to isolate rhymes within words). Phoneme deletion tasks were used to measure phonemic awareness (the ability to isolate individual phonemes within words). Recent findings across Australia indicate that girls are outperforming boys in reading, achieving up to five percentage points higher than boys in the Year 3 and Year 5 Literacy Benchmark Tests (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2000) however Alexander and Martin (2000) proposed that such differences are restricted to those boys who are average to below average readers. Neuroimaging and lesion studies (e.g., Pugh et al., 1997; Frith & VarghaKhadem, 2001) indicate that girls are more likely to engage the right hemisphere whereas boys predominantly engage the left hemisphere of the brain in undertaking phonological operations. Although the role played by the right hemisphere is controversial Pugh et al. (1997) proposed that the right hemisphere processes sounds at a fine-grained level whereas the left hemisphere engages in phonological processing using larger units of sound. This suggests that developing an awareness of phonemes may be a more difficult task for boys and rhyme awareness may play a more important role in boys' early reading and spelling acquisition. Results provided evidence that boys do not develop letter knowledge or phonemic awareness as readily as girls who demonstrated significantly better letter knowledge, phoneme deletion ability, and faster rapid automatised naming of letters than boys. Differences in distributions for graphemic and phonemic awareness factor scores (defined by high loadings from letter-name and letter-sound knowledge, phoneme deletion and RAN of letters) across the three phases of the study indicated a significant male disadvantage. Concurrent and longitudinal hierarchical regression analyses indicated that rhyme awareness played a direct role in reading and spelling acquisition for boys but not girls. By the end of the second year there was a significantly greater proportion of boys than girls in the bottom quartile of the score distributions for all the reading measures with no differences in the top quartile. Boys were significantly poorer spellers than girls at the end of both the first and second years of school, and also showed significantly poorer ability to focus mental attention on a task. These findings provide evidence of significant differences between boys and girls in the development of letter knowledge and phonemic awareness, and in the direct role of rhyme awareness in their reading and spelling acquisition. They also highlight important differences in the learning styles of the boys and girls in the study. The results have important practical implications for providing the best learning environments for boys and girls to develop reliable phonological skills. Theoretical implications lie in extending understanding of the direct role of rhyme awareness in beginning reading and spelling.


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Copyright 2004 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2004. Includes bibliographical references

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