READING ACHIEVEMENT AND THE TRANSITION FROM LETTER TO WORD RECOGNITION
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The purpose of this study was to investigate certain aspects of the early reading task. Specifically, the study focussed on a child's identification of single letters contextually embedded in both orthographic nonsense trigrams and real words. By examining children's responses to the changing task requirements it was possible to determine where and why errors were being made as the transition from single letters to word recognition was taking place. In addition, it was possible to make assumptions concerning which types of perceptual cues and strategies were being used by children. By examining the styles and strategies used it would further understanding of why some youngsters are able to make a smooth transition through this sequence of skills while, simultaneously thwarting others in their attempts at acquiring the reading process.;Ninety-one first grade children attending a public elementary school in the Bronx served as subjects. The children were of normal intelligence and all participants in a variety of reading programs. A WRAT (Wide Range Achievement Test) was administered after the experiment and used in conjunction with the school's use of the MAT (Metropolitan Achievement Test) to classify the children into 'good' and 'poor' reader groups comprised of 38 subjects.;Children were administered tasks composed of single letters, nonsense trigrams in orthographic format, and real words. Specific 'target' letters were then presented and the child asked to discern whether or not the letter was present or absent.;It was hypothesized that changes in the task demands of early reading required changes in the units of attention. It was also surmised that good readers would make the shift to words more easily than would poor readers, and; therefore, would have relatively greater difficulty than poor readers in recognizing the presence of given individual letters in words.;Results indicated that both good and poor readers had a 'word set' which interfered with analyzing words into their component parts. Further analysis demonstrated that poor readers were more affected by this word set than were the good readers.;Set appeared to be a most important factor for the majority of subjects. The task demands evoked differing response patterns from the children. For some, a smooth transition from task to task was evident. For others a dramatic increase in reaction times occurred across tasks. The ability to utilize specific sets served to facilitate the performance of certain youngsters. These may be the same youngsters who are currently classified as the 'good' readers.;In learning to read there are a series of stages with varying sets or combinations of sets that are acquired at different times for different children. As demands change the requirements for success change, and therefore, the child must alter his use of acquired sets. A child's adaptive skills will either allow for incorporation of sets necessary to meet the changing task demands inherent in learning to read or hinder the speed of acquisition.;The issue becomes how best to integrate both semantic and perceptual sets in order to best meet with success as task demands alter.