Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Eileen Wood

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Various models reading development (Frith, 1985; Gough & Hillenger, 1980; Marsh, Friedman, Welch, & Desberg, 1981) have suggested that word shape is of critical important to early readers when recognizing words they know. As children progress through the early stages of reading, critical features such as first letter then become the important definers of word recognitions among early readers until they are at a much more advanced stage (Frith, 1985). More generally, advanced orthographic awareness among early readers is not considered to play an important role until children are older and have established a more advanced reading vocabulary. The purpose of the present research was to examine more closely the degree of visual/orthographic awareness present in early readers. An estimate of each participating child’s reading (sight) vocabulary was obtained. In most instances, eight such words were randomly selected for use in the present research. The children were divided into two groups, advanced and less advanced readers, according to the number of words in their sight vocabulary. The children were presented with nine experimental conditions in which various perceptual details were disrupted. The children were also asked to spell the test words, and, finally to read their attempted spellings. However performance by the advanced readers was higher than that of the less advanced readers which suggests that the advanced readers were better at recognizing when a letter-string did not contain all the necessary elements needed to spell the word. Performance by the less advanced readers suggests that they have more difficulty in realizing that certain letters, especially middle letters, are incorrect. The findings of the present study revealed that the children did not rely on word shape or critical features exclusively when reading a word they knew. Further, the children were quite sensitive to a word’s letter order. The children were also quite successful at spelling the test words and at reading their attempted spellings. Taken together, the findings of the present research suggest that children develop orthographic awareness earlier than has been suggested. It may be that the current models of reading development should be revised so they are less rigid in their specifications concerning which reading strategies children are using at various stages.

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