Both sensitivity to speech rhythm and non-speech rhythm have been associated with successful phonological awareness and reading development in separate studies. However, the extent to which speech rhythm, non-speech rhythm and literacy skills are interrelated has not been examined. As a result, five- to seven-year-old English-speaking children were assessed on measures of speech rhythm sensitivity, non-speech rhythm sensitivity (both receptive and productive), reading attainment and phonological awareness. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that productive non-speech rhythm was unable to predict variance in reading attainment independently of phonological awareness and speech rhythm sensitivity. Receptive sensitivity to speech rhythm and non-speech rhythm were both able to predict a significant amount of unique variance in reading attainment after controlling for age, vocabulary, phonological awareness, short-term memory and each other. The findings suggest that receptive sensitivity to speech rhythm and non-speech rhythm, while related to each other, also make contributions to reading attainment that are independent of each other. These findings provide only partial consistency with the general auditory processing deficit theory of reading difficulties, but are in line with the emerging theoretical claim that sensitivity to speech prosody may be implicated in successful literacy development.
Bibliographical noteThis is an electronic version of an article published in Educational Psychology 30 (3), p.247-267. Educational Psychology is available online at:
- early literacy
- phonological awareness
- reading acquisition
- reading difficulty
Holliman, A. J., Wood, C., & Sheehy, K. (2010). The contribution of sensitivity to speech rhythm and non-speech rhythm to early reading development. Educational Psychology, 30(3), 247-267.. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410903560922