Speaking up for vocabulary: Reading skill differences in young adults

  • Braze D
  • Tabor W
  • Shankweiler D
 et al. 
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This study is part of a broader project aimed at developing cognitive and neurocognitive profiles of adolescent and young adult readers whose educational and occupational prospects are constrained by their limited literacy skills. We explore the relationships among reading-related abilities in participants ages 16 to 24 years spanning a wide range of reading ability. Two specific questions are addressed: (a) Does the simple view of reading capture all nonrandom variation in reading comprehension? (b) Does orally assessed vocabulary knowledge account for variance in reading comprehension, as predicted by the lexical quality hypothesis? A comprehensive battery of cognitive and educational tests was employed to assess phonological awareness, decoding, verbal working memory, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, word knowledge, and experience with print. In this heterogeneous sample, decoding ability clearly played an important role in reading comprehension. The simple view of reading gave a reasonable fit to the data, although it did not capture all of the reliable variance in reading comprehension as predicted. Orally assessed vocabulary knowledge captured unique variance in reading comprehension even after listening comprehension and decoding skill were accounted for. We explore how a specific connectionist model of lexical representation and lexical access can account for these findings.

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