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Predictors of reading speed in multilingual five-year-olds

A chronology of precursor competencies in children attending kindergarten

from No. 2024 | 1 zum Thema «Sprache und Musik»

Aline Lenel, Monika Knopf, Thorsten Kolling

Multiple studies show that, by the time they have completed first class, multilingual speakers in German medium education read a great deal more slowly than their monolingual peers, a disparity which the predictors used in these studies cannot  explain. Being able to read quickly enough is the prerequisite for reading comprehension. This study sets out to identify predictors of reading speed in multilinguals and to determine when precursor competencies are seen in good readers, in order to develop an empirical basis for early literacy promotion in multilinguals.
Oral and written precursor competencies were therefore investigated in 72 multilingual five-year-olds from ten months prior to four months before starting primary school. Reading speed and spelling were measured at the end of the first class. The study showed that the central precursor competency at this first measurement time is phonetic initial sounds and this explains 38 percent of differences in reading speed. A longitudinal analysis showed that reading speed develops when children begin to recognise letters before continuing with writing initial and final sounds. It can be seen that only the group of children who could already write sounds ten months before starting school developed an above average reading speed by the end of the first class. Early recognition of letters was shown to be the most significant predictor of spelling competency.

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