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Long-term predictors of reading and writing in transparent orthography: A 4-year longitudinal study of Croatian

Conference contribution
Authors Gordana Kerestes
Irma Brkovic
Linda Siegel
Tomas Tjus
Erland Hjelmquist
Published in 17th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, September 8-12, Braga, Portugal
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Subject categories Psychology


Although predictors of acquisition of reading and writing at the beginning of schooling have been studied extensively, not much is known about factors that influence literacy development beyond the first years of schooling. Reading and writing are fairly stable skills, but changes in children´s rank-order positions do occur. Some children improve, while others worsen their relative positions over time. This study examined factors that may predict these changes among children speaking Croatian, a language with a highly transparent orthography and complex syntax. Basic reading skills (accuracy and fluency) and several cognitive skills (working memory, phonological and syntactic awareness) were investigated as predictors of changes in rank-order of two reading (word decoding and reading comprehension) and two writing (word and pseudoword spelling) tests. We assessed 111 children at two time points, in grades 3 and 4 (T1), and 4 years later (T2). Predictors were measured at T1, and outcomes at both T1 and T2. Hierarchical regression analyses, in which a stable component of outcomes was controlled, revealed that syntactic awareness at T1 was the most important predictor of rank-order changes in reading and writing from T1 to T2. It explained a statistically significant proportion of change in all outcomes except word spelling. Phonological awareness contributed significantly to explaining change in reading comprehension and word spelling. Working memory and basic reading skills were not predictive of changes in outcomes, except for reading fluency, which significantly predicted changes in word decoding. These findings show that in a language with highly transparent orthography and at later stages of literacy development, syntactic awareness is more predictive for literacy development than phonological awareness. The importance of syntactic awareness may be a result of the complexity of syntactic features of the Croatian language, especially its declension and conjugation rules.

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