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Matthew Effects in ReadingConsequences in the individual effects of language aquisition - Case Study Example

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Matthew Effects in Reading; Consequences in the individual effects of language acquisition Stanovich’s seminal essay on the Matthew effects in reading clearly demonstrates how mechanisms such as reciprocal relationships and organism-environment correlation create individual differences in reading achievement where the rich-get richer and poor-get-poorer as far as their reading skills is concerned…
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Matthew Effects in Reading; Consequences in the individual effects of language acquisition Stanovich’s seminal essay on the Matthew effects in reading clearly demonstrates how mechanisms such as reciprocal relationships and organism-environment correlation create individual differences in reading achievement where the rich-get richer and poor-get-poorer as far as their reading skills is concerned. To substantiate his observation, the author undertakes to explore a vast number of literature and studies on individual differences in the cognitive skills related to reading and the article seeks to put forward a model of the development of individual differences in reading achievement. Stanovich begins his article by exploring the problems with the existing evidences on the issue. The author observes that “for many years, research on individual differences was plagued by the failure to carry out thorough process analyses on the experimental tasks employed” (Stanovich, 1986, p. 361). Researches on cognitive psychology have made it clear that one can never come to a comprehensive conclusion regarding performance difference in reading based on observation of a single task. As such studies on the cognitive processes on reading need to take into account the casual and reciprocal relationships among variables. The author argues that an effective model of the development of individual differences in reading should give primary importance to phonological awareness as it is the most significant predictor in reading success even though cognitive functioning such as nonverbal intelligence, vocabulary, and listening comprehension facilitate the development of reading skills. This emphasises the significance of phonological awareness tasks rather than general intelligence tests or reading readiness tests. One should also bear in mind that there is a reciprocal causative relationship between phonological awareness and reading acquisition. Children during their early reading stages need to grasp the spelling to sound code which will promote independent decoding in the long run. Thus, the author advocates that “the prerequisite phonological awareness and skill at spelling-to-sound mapping be in place early in the child’s development, because their absence can initiate a causal chain of escalating negative side effects” (Stanovich, 1986, pp. 363-64). The author also argues that many things that facilitate reading comprehension ability are developed through reading itself. Individual differences in eye movements while reading were closely related to fluency in reading. However, paring down the number of causal relationships the author identifies that it is the level of reading material that determines the nature of the eye movement patterns and not vice versa. Similarly, the context effects on word recognition had been thought to be affecting the reading level of children. Studies have claimed that variation in the use of context and contextual effects affect the reading efficiency. For Stanovich there can be different types of context effects while reading a text. While many researchers advocate that fluent readers better make use of context effects for word recognition and comprehension process there are many others who hold that “not only do the poorer readers in these studies use context, but they often show somewhat larger contextual effects than do the better readers” (Stanovich, 1986, p. 366). Stanovich comes to the conclusion that it is not that a good reader does not make use of visual information but that he uses only a lesser capacity to do so compared to a poor reader as the former has a more powerful stimulus-analysis mechanism. The author thus propagates that efficient decoding proves to be a better mechanism rather than context use in effective reading. As a result children with slow word decoding process tend to depend more on contextual information. The distinction between the nominal context and the effective context of the reader also need to be taken care of. Similarly, the decoding ability of the reader and the difficulty level of the contextual material are also significant in this regard. The researcher and his colleagues employed a longitudinal research design to test the hypothesis that poor readers do not rely on context to facilitate word recognition. The study conducted by the researchers among the first graders in the fall and Spring showed that at a comparable level of context free decoding ability “the recognition efficiency scores of the less skilled readers actually displayed somewhat more contextual facilitation than those of the skilled readers” (Stanovich, 1986, p. 371-72). This shows that the skilled readers have better context-free decoding efficiency and superior prediction abilities. Stanovich considers the Phenomenon of “Word Calling” as an inappropriate reading strategy as no semantic activation takes place in the reader. The consequences of reading history and practice also exert great influence on reading skill acquisition. The different histories of success, failure, and reward in the context of reading, the knowledge of sound structure and metalinguistic functioning, and the development of the ability to comprehend more complex syntactic structures through a variety of reading experiences distinguish a skilled reader from an poor reader (Stanovich, 1986, p. 373-74). Similarly, previous literature has highlighted that reading level match designs are capable of enhancing one’s reading level by correlating between cognitive skills and reading ability. In his propagation of the Matthew effects in reading the author stresses that reading experience acts as a critical mediating variable in the reciprocal relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. The Matthew effects in reading holds that children with good vocabularies read more and learn more words whereas children with inadequate vocabularies read less and have slower development in their vocabularies (Stanovich, 1986, p. 381). Thus, vocabulary knowledge facilitates reading comprehension to a great extent and vice versa. The principal of organism-environment correlation is very much in work in reading development as differences in reading exposure among readers create individual differences in their reading skill levels. The problem of dyslexia or reading disability also needs to be addressed. The author observes that flaws in phonemic awareness, spelling-to-sound decoding skills, and syntactic knowledge and awareness act as causative factors behind reading disability. There have been a number of independent laboratory studies that supported the Matthew effects in reading. Studies conducted by Ewers and Brownson (1999), Walsh, Rafferty, and Turner (1992), and Shefelbine also held that “those with higher lexical knowledge learned more new words than did those with lower lexical knowledge” (Stone, Silliman, Ehren & Apel, 2005, p. 309). To conclude, it can be stated that Stanovich’s article addresses many of the missing links in the previous literature on individual differences in reading achievement. The various topics dealt in the article seek to address the research question as to what contribute to the individual differences in reading level. The researcher makes use of a vast number of literature, research findings, statistics and research designs employed by other researchers on reading skills. Stanovich also observes that in most of the studies mentioned in the article the participants were school-labelled samples most of whom were either first graders or kindergartens. However, special care is taken by the author to include such studies as conducted by Klinge et al (1977) that take into account the sex, race, age, socioeconomic status, and geographic communities of the participants as well. The longitudinal research designs and the reading level match designs employed by the author for the purpose of the study answer the research question to a certain extent and keep the doors open for further researches as to the strategies by which the reading disabilities of the poor readers can best be addressed. References Stanovich, K.E. (Fall 1986). Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21(4), 360-407. Stone, C.A., Silliman, E.R., Ehren, B.J & Apel, K. (2005). Handbook of Language and Literacy: Development and Disorders. Illustrated edn: Guilford Press. Read More
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