Posted by:

Brain-scans / Phonemes / Children Reading L2

The connection between phonemic awareness and reading is well documented. (There is a list of articles on the topic below).


It is not clear which processes underlie this connection, so researchers are trying to figure it out. An article I recently read used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the speech processing mechanisms for common and uncommon speech sounds.


The study is titled: Brain event-related potentials to phoneme contrasts and their correlation to reading skills in school-aged children (below). Of course, the results of the study are interesting. I wouldn’t be writing about them otherwise.


Without going into too much detail, the study looked at school-aged children in Finland and the United States. One aim was to examine whether the ERP responses to speech sounds, both native and non-native, were associated with reading skills. Along with the ERPs the children were tested behaviorally on reading, writing, and phoneme awareness tasks. The results showed brain responses to the phoneme contrasts correlated robustly with reading scores in the US children. Finnish children also showed correlations between the reading and phonological measures, but the results were not as clear as for the US children. The authors suggest that this discrepancy is due to the fact the the Finnish children would have been exposed to more English than the American children to Finnish.


The authors conclude with this: “Overall, our results show that processing of uncommon speech sound contrasts is associated with reading skills. Our results support the link between speech perception, phonological skills, and reading skills, particularly in opaque orthographies.”


Please note the bit about opaque orthographies. That is English.


Again, the importance of phonemic awareness cannot be overstated. How to teach it?


That is what b4 does.




Brain event-related potentials to phoneme contrasts and their correlation to reading skills in school-aged children.  International Journal of Behavioral Development. 2017


References for PA

Anthony, J. L., & Francis, D. J. (2005). Development of phonological awareness. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 255–259

Bradley, L., & Bryant, P. (1978). Difficulties in auditory organisation as a possible cause of readingbackwardness. Nature, 271, 746–747

Goswami, U., & Bryant, P. (1990). Phonological skills and learning to read. Hove, UK: LawrenceErlbaum.

Melby-Lerva ̊g, M., Lyster, S. A. H., & Hulme, C. (2012). Phonological skills and their role in learning to  read: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 322.

Wagner, R. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 192–212. Mody, M., Studdert-Kennedy, M., & Brady, S. (1997). Speech per- ception deficits in poor readers: Auditory processing or phono- logicalcoding? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 64, 199–231.


Latest posts by Jim Jensen (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *