Reading And Rhythm Relationship Explored - The British Psychological Society, UK
Lead researcher Andrew Holliman from The Open University said: 'The link between children's reading ability and their ability to distinguish speech sounds - their phonological awareness - is well researched. However, a real sticking point for psychologists is an understanding of how children first distinguish individual words from one another in the more or less continuous stream of speech that they hear.'
'English is a stress-timed language characterised by strong and weak syllables. As 85 per cent of spoken words in English begin with a strong syllable it would make sense that if a child can detect these stresses - that they are sensitive to the rhythm of speech - then they would be more able to identify word boundaries. We would predict that these children would have better phonological awareness and would also be better readers.'
In this research, six-year-old children were tested on their sensitivity to word stresses. They were asked to identify objects from spoken words, such as sofa. However, the stresses of some of the syllables within words were reversed, so the end of the word was stressed instead of the beginning. Instead of hearing 'so-fa', they heard 's'far', and 'parr-ot' became 'p'rrot' for example.
'We found that the children who fared well at this task were better at reading than the children who didn't do so well.' Andrew Holliman continued. "This finding builds on existing research that reports a link between children's sensitivity to rhythm in the spoken word and their reading ability.
'Furthermore, in our study this link was independent of the children's phonological awareness. This suggests that stress sensitivity could be an important and additional aspect to children's reading development and should be researched further.'
This research builds on previous research into reading, rhythm and rhyme by Wood & Terrell (1998), and Wood (2006). This study sought to overcome some of the methodological limitations from the previous studies.
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