Prosodic Sensitivity and Reading: An Investigation of Pathways of Relations Using a Latent Variable Approach

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Emerging evidence suggests that children’s sensitivity to suprasegmental phonology such as stress and timing (i.e., prosodic sensitivity) contributes to reading. The primary goal of this study was to investigate pathways of the relation of prosodic sensitivity to reading (word reading and reading comprehension) using data from 370 first-grade children. Specifically, we examined (a) the nature of the relations of prosodic sensitivity to word reading by systematically testing five alternative models (i.e., direct relations and indirect relations via phonological awareness or morphological awareness) after accounting for letter naming fluency and rapid automatized naming and (b) the relation of prosodic sensitivity to reading comprehension (a direct relation over and above word reading and listening comprehension, or an indirect relation via word reading and listening comprehension). A prosodic sensitivity task tapping into stress and timing (i.e., word stress task) was used. Structural equation model results showed that prosodic sensitivity was not directly related to word reading. Instead, its relation was completely mediated by phonological awareness and morphological awareness. Furthermore, once word reading, listening comprehension, and working memory were accounted for, prosodic sensitivity was not related to reading comprehension. Therefore, it appears that prosodic sensitivity makes a contribution to word reading primarily via phonological awareness and morphological awareness, and its influence on reading comprehension is via word reading and listening comprehension. These results suggest that explicit attention to prosodic sensitivity might be beneficial for developing phonological awareness and morphological awareness, which, in turn, improve reading skills.

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