Journal of

of Research
Volume 35,

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9817.2010.01479.x

Impact of early code-skill and
oral-comprehension training on
reading achievement in first grade
Maryse Bianco and Catherine Pellenq
Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Education, Universite´ Pierre-Mende`s-France,

Eric Lambert
Laboratoire CeRCA, UMR CNRS 6234, France

Pascal Bressoux and Laurent Lima
Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Education, Universite´ Pierre-Mende`s-France,

Anne-Lise Doyen
IUFM Centre Val de Loire, Universite´ d’Orle´ans, France

In a 3-year longitudinal study, we examined the relationships between oral language
development, early training and reading acquisition on word-identification and readingcomprehension tests administered to a sample of 687 French children. Hierarchical
linear models showed that both phonological awareness and oral comprehension at the
age of 4 years were relevant to reading acquisition 2 years later. These two broad skills
explained separate parts of the variance on both outcome measures, while revealing
opposite effects: phonological skills explained more variance for alphabetic reading
skills and oral comprehension explained more variance for reading comprehension. We
also assessed the effects of two preschool training programmes focusing on either
phonological awareness or comprehension skills. The results showed that phonological
awareness training had a positive effect on alphabetic scores, and comprehension
training had a positive effect on reading comprehension. These results provide insight
into early oral instruction and contribute to the theoretical debate about the linguistic
predictors of literacy acquisition.

Many recent longitudinal studies have pointed out a strong relationship between oral
language development and literacy acquisition. They have shown that the process of
becoming literate begins well before children start academic learning (Catts, Fey, Zhang
& Tomblin, 1999; De Jong & Van der Leij, 2002; Dickinson, McCabe, Anastasopoulos,
Peisner-Feinberg & Poe, 2003; Kendeou, van den Broek, White & Lynch, 2009b;
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Lonigan, Burgess & Anthony, 2000; Muter, Hulme, Snowling & Stevenson, 2004;
NICHD, 2005; Schatschneider, Fletcher, Francis, Carlson & Foorman, 2004; Storch &
Whitehurst, 2002; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998). Moreover, there is growing evidence
that oral-language skills, not just code skills, come into play early in the course of reading
acquisition (Catts et al., 1999; Catts, Hogan & Adolf, 2005; Kendeou et al., 2009b;
Nation, 2009; NICHD, 2005). Many studies have concluded that there is a need to pay
attention to oral skill development in preschool programmes. Except for a study by
Bowyer-Crane et al. (2008), however, all published work in this field is correlational, so
the causal nature of the longitudinal relationships between early oral-language skills and
reading acquisition is not yet well established. The 3-year longitudinal research reported
in this paper is an attempt to fill in this gap. It investigates the relationships between
preschool oral language, training in either phonological or comprehension skills, and
reading outcomes in first grade, on a large sample of French children.
At the present time, longitudinal studies provide converging evidence, but they raise
some important unresolved questions. We find two main areas of agreement: the first
stresses the fundamental role played by early code skills in reading acquisition; the
second states that early higher-order language abilities – in semantics, syntax, discourse
and communication, for example – become more and more important later on when the
focus shifts from word identification to reading comprehension (De Jong & Van der Leij,
2002; Muter et al., 2004; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002; Vellutino, Tunmer, Jaccard &
Chen, 2007). The unresolved issues pertain precisely to the contribution of higher orallanguage skills to literacy. As research on reading comprehension has tended to focus on
older readers and despite the growing evidence showing their contribution to reading
development, there is currently no clear picture about which of these skills predict
reading achievement, or how and when they affect literacy acquisition, whether directly
or indirectly (Dickinson, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2010).

Converging evidence: code skills and learning to read
A vast number of empirical studies have demonstrated the central role played by
phonological skills and knowledge of print (letter naming, print awareness, emergent
reading and writing) in the first stages of reading acquisition (Castles & Coltheart, 2004;
Ehri et al., 2001; Schatschneider et al., 2004; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002). The main
argument provided in support of the link between phonological awareness and early
reading is that phonological awareness in preschool is a strong and reliable precursor of
subsequent reading and spelling development (for reviews and meta-analyses, see Bus &
Van Ijzendoorn, 1999; Castles & Coltheart, 2004; Ehri et al., 2001; Elbro & Scarborough,
2003). This link finds further support in two other lines of evidence. First, both children
with specific reading disabilities and poor readers experience serious difficulties in
acquiring phonological awareness as compared with normally developing readers
(Sprenger-Charolles, Cole´ & Serniclaes, 2006; Vellutino, Fletcher, Snowling & Scanlon,
2004). Second, training in phonological awareness before formal reading instruction
reliably improves children’s phonological awareness itself, but also, albeit to a lesser
extent, their reading and spelling skills (Foorman, Francis, Flechter, Schatschneider &
Mehta, 1998; Hatcher, Hulme & Snowling, 2004; Torgesen et al., 2001). Other coderelated skills, such as alphabetic knowledge (Leppa¨nen, Niemi, Aunola & Nurmi, 2006;
Lonigan et al., 2000; Schatschneider et al., 2004), rapid naming (Kirby, Parrila &
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(1999) showed that children with reading difficulties in second grade had also experienced language deficits when they were in kindergarten. Storch & Whitehurst. Catts et al. For example. while this was true of only 10% of the average readers. Converging evidence: higher-order oral-language skills and later reading comprehension According to many other authors. Vocabulary development has received much attention. 2002. oral-language skills consistently predict reading comprehension starting in second grade. 2002. 2003). 2001). McDougall. oral comprehension and expressive speech). they also account for a significant proportion of inter-individual differences in reading comprehension in the upper grades of elementary school. phonological memory (Mann & Liberman... 2006) are also thought to be true predictors of reading and spelling development. NICHD.. 1994) and emergent spelling and writing (Ehri & Wilce. Significant high correlations are usually obtained between different language abilities during the preschool years (Bianco et al. 2009b. 2002. Kendeou et al. Dickinson & McCabe. 2009b. 2001. broader language skills are more powerful in explaining later reading achievement. once the influence of reading accuracy is factored out (Cain.. syntax. Moreover. Unresolved questions: which higher oral-language skills and when? Findings on the role played by early higher oral-language skills in early reading are contradictory. oral comprehension strongly predicted reading comprehension.. that early oral-language skills are powerful predictors of reading development insofar as they are highly predictive of prekindergarten code skills (Storch & Whitehurst. all component abilities are found to be closely interrelated (vocabulary. 2005).. When broad language skills are measured before first grade and/or before academic literacy learning. early-developing language skills converge to construct the reading competence exhibited by a successful reader. Scarborough. Storch & Whitehurst. 2002). In the older age groups. In other words. Catts et al. In fact. whereas decoding skills were no longer significant predictors. whereas code skills consistently predict decoding skills between kindergarten and third grade (De Jong & Van der Leij.. 2003. Leppa¨nen et al. Vellutino et al. and has been shown Copyright r 2011 UKLA . syntactic or discursive – are related to reading acquisition and probably play a role at different points in time. from second grade onwards (De Jong & Van der Leij. 2004). 72% of the poor second-grade readers had a deficit in phonological skills. 1999. then. Muter et al. Vellutino et al. a number of basic. 2007). not only phonological abilities and alphabetic skills but also higher oral-language skills – whether semantic. In sum. NICHD. 2004. Another main point is that while code skills seem to be the most influential precursors of early reading. 1984. There is no doubt. Oakhill & Bryant. 1997. One of the main points emphasised so far is that early language development is closely related to the development of phonological and code skills in kindergarten (Cunningham & Stanovich.. this was no longer the case in Grades 6 and 7. Research suggests that a large number of language skills are involved in literacy learning (Dickinson et al. (2007) showed that while both reading accuracy and oral comprehension contributed to reading comprehension in Grades 2 and 3. 2005). Kendeou et al.3 429 EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE Pfeiffer. 2010. 2002). 1987. particularly reading comprehension. higher oral-language skills or both. Hulme. Ellis & Monk.

irrespective of word identification and reading comprehension. and receptive vocabulary is sometimes the sole indicator used to assess early semantic and oral language development (Dickinson et al. Sanders & Abbott. It showed that a ‘comprehensive language’ model fits the data better than a ‘code-related’ one. These results point out the need to carefully consider the early development of true narrative skills such as monitoring and inference making (e. Metsala. it is still difficult to gain a clear developmental picture as to exactly how and when each high-order language skill starts to enter into play from the very beginning of reading development. NICHD. when vocabulary and broad language skills were considered together. Lonigan et al. Vocabulary is a predictor of phonological development (Bowey. then. 2003) and word identification (De Jong & Van der Leij. They have found (1) that these oral skills have a direct impact on word identification in first grade (Catts et al. 2009b) further demonstrated the importance of early. which tracked 1. 2003. 2005) and (2) that these measures predict the response to remedial reading programmes (Vadasy. PELLENQ. The tools used in longitudinal studies differ greatly. The last point here concerns the correlational basis of the studies reviewed above. 2003). first. As a result of this correlation-based focus. higher-order oral skills.. 2007. Bohn-Gettler. 1999. This suggests that oral-language skills have a direct effect on word recognition in first grade. it showed that expressive language and oral comprehension observed at 54 months were directly and significantly related to word reading in first grade. They showed. White & van den Broek (2009a. little is known about the feasibility of improving young children’s oral-language skills and their possible effects on early reading. Muter et al. Vocabulary seems to be a direct predictor of emergent literacy (Dickinson et al. Moreover.. 1997). Muter et al. LIMA and DOYEN to occur in relation to both comprehension skills and code skills (De Jong & Van der Leij. BRESSOUX.g.. that inferential skills develop very early and comparably across media.. 2002. Catts et al. although contradictory data do exist (e.. 1999) while phonological awareness may in turn promote vocabulary growth (Dickinson et al. With respect to reading-comprehension development.. Muter et al.. NICHD.g. 2002. 2009). LAMBERT.4 430 BIANCO. 2008). 2000. Vellutino et al. the latter played a greater role as only measures of broad language skills significantly predicted word-reading performance in first grade. 2004. 1994.. The very complexity of language and the intertwined development of its component skills are certainly major reasons for gaps in our knowledge about these challenging questions in developmental research. and second. The NICHD study (2005).. Apart from the findings of our own research and a recent study by Bowyer-Crane et al. Only a few studies have used both vocabulary and broader measures of early speech.. Very importantly. 2004). grammatical knowledge and narrative skills) as well as code skills are significant predictors of secondgrade reading achievement. (1999) showed that oral-language skills (vocabulary.137 normally developing children from 36 months of age to third grade and assessed both their code-related skills and their broad oral-language abilities. Copyright r 2011 UKLA . a series of studies conducted by Kendeou. At the present time. For example. Schatschneider et al.. Cain & Oakhill. provided further compelling evidence. the causal nature of the longitudinal relationships between early oral-language skills and reading acquisition are still poorly understood. independently of code-related skills. that these skills contribute independently and significantly to reading comprehension over and above code skills and vocabulary in 6–8-year-old children. Note that it is equally possible to propose empirical arguments to explain the relative confusion existing in this area. Wagner et al. (2008) showing that early training in oral-language skills is effective at improving vocabulary and grammatical skills of at-risk 5-year-old children. receptive and expressive language. 2005). 2004.

2002. assessed by testing their word identification and reading comprehension. one semester during prekindergarten (year 1) and one semester during kindergarten (year 2). Then during the prekindergarten and kindergarten years. then. depending on what tests are studied (Keenan. the present study is the first to simultaneously investigate the relationships between oral language development. the children participated in specific training programmes focusing either on code skills (phonological awareness training or PHO programme: Lambert & Doyen. 2002) and narrative-production skills (Bowyer-Crane et al.052 4-year-old French children who were attending prekindergarten1 at the onset of the study. This paper thus examines not only the relationships between early oral-language development. 2006) and passage comprehension (Catts et al.. Coda & Gourgue. Vadasy et al.. while others compute a composite score. 2002. Some authors use individual measures separately. Finally. that our understanding of the impact of higherorder language skills on reading is still unclear.. The results reported below come from a 3-year longitudinal study conducted on a large sample of 1. measured when the children were 4 years old. 2006). 2008) to sentence comprehension (Leppa¨nen et al. Betjemann & Olson. 2007). Storch & Whitehurst. 2004. 2008). Two main research questions are addressed here: Copyright r 2011 UKLA . (2) narrative-reception skills (Bowyer-Crane et al. Each of these two groups (CS and PHO) was further subdivided to make four experimental groups in all. De Jong & Van der Leij. but also the effects of early training on later reading achievement. inferential monitoring and narrative skills... 2008. 2002. Two other groups (CS2 and PHO2) were trained for only one semester during kindergarten in the second year of the study. The same ‘confusion’ is observed in the assessment of later reading comprehension. production tasks (Bowyer-Crane et al. Both training programmes had positive effects on the development of orallanguage skills.70. or (3) language development using composite scales (NICHD. The present study To our knowledge. When other measures are used. ranging from . The children’s oral language development (phonological awareness and oral-comprehension skills) was assessed for the first time at the beginning of the study. Vadasy et al. 2005). 2008). Storch & Whitehurst. 2004.. 2008) or syntactic awareness tasks (Muter et al. and later reading acquisition in first grade. It is not surprising. The CS programme taught comprehension skills such as syntactic parsing.EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 5 431 2004. 2005.18 to . 2008. a fifth group acted as a control group... Cross-test correlations are generally moderate. with tasks ranging from cloze tasks (NICHD. 2006). 1999. Two of the groups (one in each training programme. 2002). referred to as CS1 and PHO1) received two semesters of training. Vellutino et al. 2005) or on comprehension skills (CS programme: Bianco. Muter et al.. while PHO training improved the children’s phonological awareness but not their comprehension (Bianco et al.. De Jong & Van der Leij. Schatschneider et al. its possible enhancement through training. The diversity in the assessment tools that are used is also probably tied to the fact that the existing standardised tools for language and text-comprehension assessment have demonstrated a huge amount of variability as to how they measure the performance of the same individual. CS training improved children’s oral-comprehension skills but not their phonological awareness. 2004). it is to evaluate (1) syntactic knowledge via sentence-comprehension tasks (Leppa¨nen et al... and later reading acquisition in first grade.. 2010).

over and above code skills. especially when reading comprehension is considered. 1999. 2005). 2. three additional predictions can be derived: (2a) An improvement in oral-comprehension skills should directly benefit reading comprehension in first grade. The overall attrition rate was 35%. and enhanced phonological skills should directly benefit the word-identification component of reading. if higherorder skills also come into play in the early stages of reading acquisition (Catts et al. LIMA and DOYEN 1. the data were obtained from 682 children divided into five experimental groups. oral-comprehension skills measured at age 4 can be predicted to explain a significant part of the variance in early reading. However. Which early language skills can be identified as important precursors of first-grade reading achievement in French? Is it true that oral code skills play the greatest part in reading performance during the early stages of learning to read. (2b) In line with NICHD findings. The attrition rate was high because many children dropped out upon entering first grade2 but it still met the standards defined by the WWC Handbook (What Works Clearinghouse. The children formed part of the larger sample of 1. (1c) While early phonological skills should explain the largest part of the variance in word-identification skills.. the first prediction we can make (Prediction 1a) is that early phonological awareness will be the main predictor of reading skills in first grade.052 prekindergarten pupils who participated in the training programmes outlined above. 2009a. 2009b.. in both alphabetic and lexical reading development. (2c) Based on Bianco et al. PELLENQ. a logistic procedure showed that the probability of dropping out of the protocol was the same in all groups (every Wald X2 was o3.6 432 BIANCO. From this. 1986) and more recently evidenced by the National Early Literacy Panel report (2008)? If so. oral-comprehension skills should also contribute independently and significantly to word-identification acquisition. Method Participants As shown in Table 1. while the maximum differential attrition rate observed between groups was equal to 10 percentage points. NICHD.’s (2010) finding that the oral skills of children trained for two semesters (groups CS1 and PHO1) improved significantly more than did those of children trained for only one semester (groups CS2 and PHO2). Given that the two training programmes outlined above proved to enhance children’s oral-language skills. with Copyright r 2011 UKLA . two additional predictions can be derived: (1b) Early comprehension skills should be the best independent predictor of reading comprehension in first grade. as initially stated in the famous ‘simple view of reading’ model (Gough & Tunmer. and that comprehension skills account for an increasing proportion of reading performance as learning proceeds.25. on measures of both word identification and reading comprehension. gains in oral comprehension should result in a direct improvement in code skills in first grade. BRESSOUX. training effects on later reading acquisition should be stronger for CS1 and PHO1. LAMBERT. Kendeou et al. 2008). However. will the training administered in preschool also have an effect on reading acquisition in first grade? If so.

the CS1 and control groups had more children from lowor very low-status homes (see Table 1). an analysis of the distributions obtained for each oral language score at study onset indicated no difference between the distributions of the total sample and the reduced sample.94 44.0001 showing that group CS2. (1) We wanted to implement the training programmes in natural settings.79. This design has a limitation that may partly explain the attrition effects discussed above.28 17. This made strict randomisation difficult. The participating schools were allowed to decide which programme they would offer during the first 2 years of the study. contained more socioeconomically advantaged children. we can say that the teachers formed an experienced group of professionals. 88 teachers were involved over the 2 years of training and 44 more teachers were in charge of the first-grade classes.75 42.04 27.26 Note: The cells indicate the number of students in each group at each assessment time. It can therefore be reasonably argued that the groups did not differ in terms of attrition rate. and to a lesser extent group PHO1.24% of the children came from a middle. Every teacher had the required certification for teaching in France and none of the teachers were beginners. The socioeconomic backgrounds of the experimental groups were not strictly equivalent. and the socioeconomic status (SES) of the children’s homes. All of the children were born in 1997. however.26% were from a very low-status home according to France’s official classification of occupations (INSEE. All teachers in all experimental groups volunteered to be part of the study. Regarding socioeconomic status (SES). At the risk of limiting potential generalisability. In comparison.50 29.50% came from a low-status home and the remaining 29. the number of schools and schools located in areas with special educational needs. 42.62 16. Half of the schools were located in areas with special educational needs. with one participating class from each school.85 27. Experimental protocol and structure of the sample. 28. In all. We will address this limitation in the discussion. however. Only 5% of the first-grade teachers had less than 5 years of experience.28 26. po. so as a whole. Their Copyright r 2011 UKLA .to high-status home.24 42.21 22. group CS2 as the reference).79 45. partnerships between university research and elementary school teaching practices were unusual in France (and still are). as revealed by a X2 test.34 39. Furthermore.80 28. which meant that the children’s regular teachers had to integrate the training into their everyday lesson plans. For this.21 36.7 433 EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE Table 1. (2) At the onset of the study. Training Two semesters of training Group 1 Prekindergarten First grade Attrition (%) Number of schools (number of special education schools) Middle/high SES (%) Low SES (%) Very low SES (%) One semester of training Control group Total Group 2 CS1 PHO1 CS2 PHO2 162 102 37 8 (5) 174 104 40 5 (2) 150 105 30 5 (2) 212 136 36 7 (2) 354 236 33 12 (5) 1052 682 35 37 (16) 16. It must be stressed. X2(df 5 8) 5 55. Forty-four urban and suburban schools took part in the programme.50 57. that we used a quasiexperimental design. 2003).92 44. we wanted to make sure that each teacher would become genuinely involved in the programme and remain motivated throughout the training period.46 34. this procedure was chosen for two reasons.

PELLENQ. Keenan et al. and story events. for example. Reading performance. The children were tested individually in two sessions lasting approximately 30 minutes each. (3) Short expository texts describing the life of an animal were read aloud.78. All were normally developing children following the normal school curriculum. Receptive vocabulary in prekindergarten was assessed on a shortened version of a standardised vocabulary test (T. Internal consistency was satisfactory. Oral comprehension. 2008) were assessed using a composite test that combined sentence comprehension and text comprehension (examples of each item type are given in Appendix B). and (3) phonological discrimination.. Vocabulary. Sentence comprehension served as a measure of the children’s syntactic skills. was measured in March of the first grade. The children were shown four pictures and had to choose the one that best depicted the situation described in a sentence read by the examiner. In prekindergarten. 9 months after the training programme had ended and after the children had been in an academic learning setting for about 7 months. the oral language comprehension test contained 34 items.A. respectively: (1) paragraphs three or four sentences long containing a short riddle were read aloud and the children had to solve the riddle using deductive reasoning. The multiple high-level components of language comprehension (Hannon & Daneman. surface understanding and inferential understanding.: Deltour & Hupkens. (2) rhyme recognition with the instructions. Parental consent was obtained prior to testing.87). phonological awareness was assessed in three areas: (1) syllable parsing in words. In all. 2001.8 434 BIANCO. Text comprehension was assessed by asking the children to answer questions about narrative and informative texts. LAMBERT. word1 was/suri/(mouse) and the answer choices were/mari/(husband) and/ma˜to/(coat).P. such as gateau (cake) and pyjama (pyjamas). LIMA and DOYEN ages ranged from 3 years 11 months to 4 years 11 months at study onset (mean age 5 4 years 5 months) and from 6 years 3 months to 7 years 2 months when assessed in first grade. (2) Short stories 5–10 sentences long were read aloud and the children had to answer questions about the main characters. All comprehension items (sentences. 1980) taken Copyright r 2011 UKLA . with a Cronbach’s a of . for example. texts and questions about the texts) were read aloud to the children. and as above for the stories. the temporal and spatial setting. and you tell me which word has the same ending’. The test consisted of 20 items taken from a standardised French test (L’ECOSSE: Lecocq.V. which included both reading comprehension and decoding skills. All tests were administered by the authors or by graduate education or psychology students who were trained and periodically supervised on site. Three types of items measured deductive reasoning. who responded orally. vi/ki: do they sound the same or not? There were 38 phonological awareness items in all. Prekindergarten assessments Phonological awareness. Assessments The children’s oral language and phonological awareness skills were first assessed in November. 1996). at the beginning of their prekindergarten year. Internal consistency was satisfactory (Cronbach’s a 5 . ‘I’ll say [word1] to you. BRESSOUX. the children had to answer a number of surface or inference-based questions after hearing the texts.

L. which corresponded to the results obtained on the pseudoword reading and spelling subtests plus the results from the phonological recognition test. which is pronounced /a˜ / not /am / (the phoneme /a˜ / is usually spelled ‘an’ or ‘en’.D. some items could be read or spelled using a strict decoding procedure (plume is pronounced /plym /) but others required understanding a more sophisticated alphabetic principle such as the implicit recognition of certain morphological cues. Its internal consistency was reliable (Cronbach’s a 5 . making for a total score of at most 30 points. the reading-comprehension scale had 21 points. Overall. Sentence comprehension evaluated the children’s syntactic skills on 12 items taken from a standardised French test (LMC-R: Khomsy. To distinguish between these two important but nevertheless confounded skills in the word identification and spelling items. Reading comprehension was assessed with items similar to those used in prekindergarten for oral comprehension (see Appendix B for examples). A phonological recognition test was also added. In all. Text comprehension was assessed using an experimental test: the children read aloud an 86word. For example. who had to decide if what was written corresponded to what was said. each scored on a scale from 0 to 2. zero otherwise). Copyright r 2011 UKLA . 2001). as well as a list of frequent. Spelling skills. 1999). Another example is the spelling or reading of silent letters representing derivational morphemes in French. for example. the experimenter said the word mouton (sheep) while showing the written sequence ‘nouton’. the ‘t’ being a silent derivational letter. Spelling skills were assessed by dictating a list of pseudowords and a list of words and short noun phrases.EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 9 435 from a battery aimed at diagnosing early language impairment (D. although regular. The word reading and spelling subsets were coded using an all-or-nothing procedure (one point was awarded if the word was spelled or read correctly. These items yielded a lexical score. For example.92. First-grade assessments Reading skills. which included 35 items. but also. Cronbach’s a was . on emergent lexical skills. The experimenter said a word aloud while showing a printed word to the child.E. 37 items were included in this scale. The correct reading and spelling of the words called upon alphabetic skills.48). the word jambe (leg) contains the grapheme ‘am’.A. Reading performance was assessed by asking children to read aloud a list of pseudowords such as ‘daro’ or ‘mulpa’. The second score was designed to assess the emergent lexical skills of the first graders. ‘le gros chien’ (the big dog). regular words. these complex graphemes required orthographic knowledge that is not yet mastered by many children at this point in the reading-acquisition process. two scores were calculated.E.: Deltour. but the ‘n’ is changed to ‘m’ when followed by a ‘p’ or ‘b’).86). such as /fa/ spelled ‘chat’ (cat). for some items. The children had to read a sentence and choose which of four pictures best depicted the situation described. Its internal consistency was satisfactory (Cronbach’s a 5 . 10-line text and then orally answered six questions asked by the experimenter. The first was an alphabetic score. It consisted of 15 items. for example. The internal consistency of this test was not reliable (Cronbach’s a 5 . Reading comprehension.93). Thus.

2003): children whose parents had middle. phonemic awareness activities were combined with letter-sound mapping activities involving grapheme and phoneme matching. monitoring was introduced using activities involving the detection of inconsistencies. Copyright r 2011 UKLA . identifying and matching initial phonemes and phoneme blending. for example. One set of exercises focused on anaphora. breaking syllables down into phonemes. and that one must think about this high-status jobs were labelled SES1. verbal memory and articulation cues. For example. LIMA and DOYEN Controlled measures Three SES levels were defined on the basis of the parents’ occupations (INSEE. in order to elicit different responses likely to trigger discussion among pupils. Each lesson addressed a particular component of the comprehension process (monitoring. The syllable-awareness exercises included parsing of two.). LAMBERT. The second set revolved around deductive reasoning and was used to teach children how to use logical procedures to solve problems while relying on linguistic data. situation-model building. etc. The prekindergarten activities focused first on epiphonological skills such as pseudoword repetition and discrimination of sounds (eight exercises). Phonological training (PHO) This programme (Lambert & Doyen. Training programmes Comprehension-skill training (CS) The lessons in the CS training programme were taken from a tool elaborated by the first author and a group of experienced prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers (Bianco et al. PELLENQ. The rhyme-awareness exercises involved identification and matching. inference making. Particular attention was also paid to necessary and logical inferences. 2006). The kindergarten activities focused on phonemic awareness and letter-sound mapping. The aim was to make the children aware that comprehension difficulties do exist. After reviewing the syllable and rhyme work. The SES3 category mainly included families in which the parents were unemployed or living on welfare. BRESSOUX. children whose parents had low-status jobs were labelled SES2 and children from very low-status homes were labelled SES3. locating a syllable in a word. and then went on to syllable and rhyme awareness. as these last two variables had no significant effect on the results in first grade. they are not discussed further here. In these activities. understanding of cohesion devices. combining syllables to form words and removing the initial or final syllable of a word. 2005) provided explicit training in phonological awareness by means of listening. identifying or matching initial and final syllables. It was aimed at teaching comprehension strategies and how to reason about potential difficulties while emphasising the importance of correctly interpreting certain linguistic devices. Explicit teaching of comprehension skills was achieved by means of exercises that purposely contained ambiguities and/or several plausible answers. the children had to find and correct inconsistent information expressed in an oral text in relation to a situation shown in a picture (an example is given in Appendix A). 2002.or threesyllable words. However.. All of the preceding skills were then put to use in building a situation model and understanding the structure of a story. The children’s sex and month of birth were also considered. connective processing and causality.10 436 BIANCO.

and each child’s protocol was scored on the basis of this grid.32–.005 or phonology. computed across groups. Groups CS1 and PHO1 were equivalent otherwise (effect size 5 .97. (2) Regarding phonological awareness. p 5 . Results Scoring The data were scored by members of the research team. The effect sizes involving PHO2 fell in the interval [. A correction and scoring grid was prepared first by the group of researchers. the other comparisons showed that groups CS2 and PHO2 did not differ from each other (CS2/PHO2 comparison 5  .45]). the two training programmes lasted between 7 and 8 hours each year. However. During these periods. each pupil was trained for 30 minutes a week. This Copyright r 2011 UKLA . SD 5 1).27– . 677) 5 3..11) but that these two groups obtained higher mean oral-comprehension scores than groups CS1 and PHO1 (the effect sizes for groups CS2/PHO2 compared with groups CS1/PHO1 fell in the interval [. the observed scores for the variables of interest were normalised (mean 5 0. The normalised data were processed in the hierarchical linear models presented below. and each group was offered two 20-minute sessions a week. 677) 5 2. present and justify their own opinions and compare them with the other children’s ideas. p 5 . Out of the total time spent at school. F(4. Appendix B gives some examples of the scoring guidelines for open-ended comprehension questions.54].17) except for those involving PHO2. They are presented in Table 2. phonology and vocabulary scores in prekindergarten. F(4. The effect sizes of each possible pair of prekindergarten phonological and oral-comprehension scores revealed the following trends: (1) no experimental group differed from the control group on oral comprehension (effect sizes were in the interval [.05).0008. Similarly for the phonological training. group PHO2 differed from the other experimental groups.23]). The effect sizes for the 10 possible pairs of prekindergarten phonological awareness scores showed that none of the comparison values were 4. 2001). Group equivalence in prekindergarten An analysis of variance on comprehension.01. assisted by three paid graduate students. When scoring difficulties arose they were resolved using an interjudge agreement procedure.09 but were not exactly the same on comprehension. depending on the type of training given. This corresponds to the optimal duration reported in the phonological training literature for typically developing children (Ehri et al. F(4. 677) 5 4.04–.78. They were also told to create a friendly classroom environment and to encourage debate among the children so that all children could express themselves.EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 11 437 Implementation of training As stated earlier. p 5 . The comprehension training lasted 14–16 consecutive weeks per year. the pupils were trained by their ordinary teachers in their regular classrooms. the children were trained for 12 consecutive weeks per year. The teachers were instructed to work with small groups of pupils (four to seven) all with a comparable level in language comprehension or phonological awareness. revealed that the five experimental groups were not significantly different on vocabulary. The tests used to assess the children’s language abilities were designed with a different number of items across time and across skills. For this reason.25 (range: .08–.

22) 24.056) 0.206 (0.160 (1.214 (0.942) 0.81 (8.03 (0. Duff et al.19) (1.013 (1.971)  0.69) 25. the correlations were all significant and indicated basically the same pattern across groups. In first grade. 2005.013) (4.091 15. Max:35 PHO1 CS2 PHO2 Control  0. vocabulary in prekindergarten. although to a lesser extent and with greater variation across groups (.28  0. The correlations between the prekindergarten and first-grade scores were also significant.018 (3.12 438 BIANCO.774)  0. both phonological awareness and oral comprehension measured in prekindergarten were significantly correlated with reading skills observed in first grade.86 0.04) 12.91 (21.097 15.119 (0. 2009. 2008.018) 59.111)  0.33 (17.024) 0. although not exactly the same across groups..98 (4. This confirms the previous analysis of variance showing that the experimental groups were not strictly equivalent with respect to initial measures of oral-language skills.53–. Between-score correlations For each experimental group.184 (7.30 (5. PELLENQ.08) PK. Catts et al.070 (1.31) 25.26)  0. The results of the correlation analyses are compatible with previous research and suggest that language development as a whole contributes to reading acquisition. Reading comprehension and alphabetic skills were highly correlated (between .054) 27. BRESSOUX.223 (0. prekindergarten. This was also true for the correlation between the lexical score and reading comprehension. alphabetic score and lexical score in first grade.04)  0.76 (5.35) 26. LAMBERT.12) 0.049 (1.53) 11.017 (1.52 (21.6) 11.023 14. nonequivalence of experimental groups represents another weakness in our protocol.30 (5.311 (0.015)  0. as suggested by more and more investigators today (Catts et al.31 (0.43) (1.081)  0.844) (7. reading comprehension.22 (7..76 (7.024 (0.99 0.044) 59.976)  0. 2005.43) (0.81 (5.233 (4.44) 0. Score Group CS1 Oral comprehension (PK) Max:51 Phonological awareness (PK) Max:38 Vocabulary (PK) Max:30 Reading comprehension (first grade) Max:21 Alphabetic score (first grade) Max:79 Lexical score (first grade). 2009.57 (4.733) 11. 2002.954) 27.151 (0.01) (0..94) 0.148 25.57 (4.81 (6.35) 9. a topic we will address in the discussion.78 0.14 (21.38) 14.070 (1.59 (7.106 (1.30)  0.07 (4.61 (1.52 (5. The correlation tables are given in Appendix C.021) (5.27 (0.896) 61. NICHD.038) (6.217 27. Nation & Cocksey.215 (1.077) 9.03) 0.04) 0.53 0. More specifically.55 0.028) 12. De Jong & Van der Leij.33 (22.40) (1.940)  0.70 and .047 (1.028) 24. LIMA and DOYEN Table 2.007 (0. between-score correlations were calculated for the six scores: phonological awareness.38 (8. oral comprehension. the overall between-score correlation pattern is convergent. 1999.985) 55. Normalised mean and standard deviation of the main scores (raw mean scores are presented in italics below normalised mean scores).16) 12.094 (1.054 (7. We can see that at study onset.52) 0. Nation.30) 0.05) (1.63).67) 0.98) 15.52) 62.011) 9.041 (1.998) 0.171 (0.75).0086 10.994) (4.914)  0. although some differences did emerge across groups.938) 25. Vellutino Copyright r 2011 UKLA .052) (4.

2008. vocabulary and phonological awareness in prekindergarten and word-identification ability in first grade Table 3.0001.4 Oral-language skills and training effects on reading comprehension in first grade (test of predictions 1a.098)* (0. 1b.6718 0. we began by fitting empty models to the data in order to look for random effects.0156 (0. Pr4/t/ Model 0 Intercept Comprehension in PK Phonology in PK Vocabulary in PK Word identific. 2a and 2c).1451 0. Model 0 revealed that the inter-individual variance accounted for the greatest amount of the total variance (80%).0155 0.0734  0. representing 22% of the total variance.031)*** (0. socioeconomic status. The first model (Model 0) was an empty model that allowed us to take the nested structure of the data into account.103) (0.3165 (0.0181 (0.065)** 0. First grade SES (low) SES (very low) CS1 CS2 PHO1 PHO2 Random effects Level 2 Intercept (school) Phonology.018)*** 1179. Hierarchical linear models explaining reading comprehension in first grade.018)*** 1167.0438 0. Finally. **po.3 hierarchical linear models (Bressoux. Raudenbush & Bryk.095) 0. Fixed effects Estimation (SD).038)* (0. or to make any statements about the effect of training group on first-grade reading scores.0096 (0.0166 (0.0738 0.7978 (0. Model 1 introduced oral-comprehension performance.072) (0.. but that the inter-school variance was also significant. The results obtained with reading comprehension as the outcome are presented in Table 3.057) (0.008)* 0. the many inter-correlations observed do not allow us to speak of causal relationships between prekindergarten oral language scores and first-grade reading outcomes. The models with the best fit are presented below.027)*** (0.0262 (0. Copyright r 2011 UKLA .1 (0.038)* (0.038) (0.087) 0.008)* 0. Hierarchical linear models Because of the hierarchical structure of the data.3158 (0. where children were nested within schools.05. However. To answer these questions. which requires multi-level statistical data analysis.026)*** Model 2 0. ***po.0703 0.1494 0.045)*** 1801.027) (0. the experimental variables were entered.0297 (0.031)*** (0.2207 0.6 PK. one needs to be able to assess the independent effects of these variables. * po. prekindergarten.0046 0. Slope variance Level 1 (inter-individual)  2log L N 5 666 Model 1 0.067)* (0.013)* 0.6641  0.2180 (0. 2007). The controlled variables were then entered.010)* 0. 2002) were used to address our research questions and to examine the effects of early language skills and training programmes on reading achievement in first grade. and those found to be significant were retained.1655 0.105) (0.13 439 EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE et al.2 0. SES.001. For each outcome measure.0179 0.0121 0.027) (0.1144 0.

word-identification ability contributed very significantly to reading-comprehension scores. so this indicates that the school effect depended on the children’s initial phonological awareness (the covariance between the slope and intercept variances was nonsignificant though).6. Moreover. Second. 2010). The random effects remained approximately the same even though the inter-school variance was slightly lower.5% variance). PELLENQ. They extend previous results showing that early oral-language skills play an important role in reading comprehension at the very early stages of literacy acquisition. The transition from Models 1 to 2 only marginally improved the statistical fit of the model.32). but that inter-school variance was also significant and represented 10% of the total variance. (1) Its effect size is revealing ( 5 .14 440 BIANCO. which is also compatible with our predictions 2a and 2c about training effects. delta  2log L (df 5 5) 5 621. vocabulary and phonological awareness. LAMBERT. We will address this finding in the discussion.. therefore. the best decoders also understood what they read better. and not surprisingly. these four variables led to a much better fit of the model. measured in Copyright r 2011 UKLA . which was explicitly trained in oral comprehension during the 2 years preceding first grade. The inter-individual variance was greatly reduced (by 60%). This result is fully compatible with the widely documented observation of academic underachievement in children from disadvantaged or at-risk families. 2b and 2c). This result is encouraging and deserves emphasis. po.and high-achieving children and weaker for average ones. This is a more surprising result. In other words. Finally. This was especially true for oralcomprehension skills. delta  2log L (df 5 6) 5 11. BRESSOUX.10. The analysis of the fixed effects in Model 2 indicated a number of parameters that contributed significantly to reading-comprehension scores. The first model (Model 0) showed that inter-individual variance accounted for most of the total variance (88. The results concerning the first graders’ alphabetic skills are presented in Table 4. Introducing initial oralcomprehension performance. Oral-language skills and training effects on alphabetic skills in first grade (test of predictions 1c. this model allowed us to decompose the inter-school variance into school status (intercept) and phonological-awareness slope variance between schools. achieved better reading-comprehension performance than the control group.05opo.0001. children’s oral language performance (both oral comprehension and phonological awareness) measured 2 years before the assessment in first grade explained a significant proportion of the reading-comprehension score. as was the inter-school variance. and more interestingly. Model 2 introduced the children’s socioeconomic characteristics and the experimental groups. The prekindergarten vocabulary score did not predict reading comprehension in first grade. The final result pertains to the experimental groups: of the four groups. only CS1. These two points are not compatible with prediction 1a but confirm prediction 1b. the breakdown of the inter-school variance indicated that the school effects were stronger for low. These two coefficients were significant. Together. especially comprehension. The third result is that children from very low-status homes achieved significantly lower mean reading-comprehension scores than their more-advantaged counterparts. 2a. shows that early oral-comprehension training not only improves oral skills but is also beneficial for later reading comprehension. This. given that vocabulary development is traditionally recognised as an important predictor of later reading achievement. (2) Previous analyses of the training programme’s effects in terms of oral-comprehension skills revealed exactly the same pattern (Bianco et al. First of all.9. LIMA and DOYEN as regressors. given that this is a medium-term training effect (reading comprehension was assessed 9 months after all the training programmes had ended). which explained twice as much variance as phonological awareness skills. .

3674 0.044)** (0. while Model 2 was better at explaining the inter-school variance (accounting for 54%).1309 0.15 441 EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE Table 4. delta  2log L (df 5 7) 5 32. Inter-individual variance remained approximately the same.0013  0. prekindergarten vocabulary scores did not predict alphabetic skills in first grade.0251 0. As observed for reading comprehension.0160 0.0037 (0. Hierarchical linear models explaining alphabetic reading skills in first grade.038)*** 1705. it is interesting to note that the effects of oral comprehension and phonological awareness were reversed: here.143) (0.144) (0.0001. oral language performance (both oral comprehension and phonological awareness) measured 2 years before the firstgrade assessment explained a significant part of the alphabetic score.4008 0. Random effects were reduced. Both coefficients were nevertheless significant. po.8 0.097)*** (0. and this observation once again confirms that early orallanguage skills. **po.0656  0.058) (0.0761 (0.0001. prekindergarten.0871 0. The analysis of the fixed effects in Model 2 showed that a number of parameters contributed significantly to alphabetic scores.082) (0.066) 0.019)* 0.039) (0.001.045)* (0. po. not just phonological skills. prekindergarten. * po.106) (0.0478 (0.157)* (0.001.0974  0. and the children’s initial language skills explained 20% of the inter-individual variance and 27% of the inter-school variance. These results are also fully in line with prediction 1c. Fixed effects Estimation (SD). socioeconomic status.6 0.026)** 0. delta  2log L (df 5 3) 5 154.8.042)*** (0.8. Model 2 introduced children’s socioeconomic characteristics and the experimental groups. First.0 PK.036)** 0.2513 0.0524 0. thus indicating that the school effects were similar irrespective of the children’s initial oral-language performance.040) Model 2 0. Finally. Although this result is comparable with that observed for reading comprehension.3566 0. as regressors.049)*** 1892.1044 (0. However. The transition from Models 1 to 2 also significantly improved the statistical fit of the model. Pr4/t/ Model 0 Intercept Comprehension in PK Phonology in PK Vocabulary in PK SES (low) SES (very low) CS1 CS2 PHO1 PHO2 PHO1*phonology in PK Random effects Level 2 Intercept (school) Level 1 (inter-individual)  2log L N 5 682 Model 1 (0.1471 0.7078 (0. Model 1 gave rise to a much better fit of the data.09) (0.039)*** 1737. SES.8853 (0.160) (0. which pertains to our first research question.05.046)*** (0. and contrary to what was observed for reading comprehension.3178 0. contribute to reading acquisition. ***po.2575 (0.6836 (0. the between-school oral language (phonological awareness as well as oral comprehension) slope variance was not significant. phonological awareness in prekindergarten explained much more of the observed variance in alphabetic skills than oral comprehension did.094)* 0. The second result was that children from Copyright r 2011 UKLA .

po. The final result (related to prediction 2b) – namely. in terms of lexical skills. 2009. 2004. broader language abilities are involved in reading acquisition (Catts et al. This finding is worth mentioning to the extent that the training effects reported here are medium-term effects. Oral-language skills and training effects on lexical skills in first grade (test of predictions 1c. Duff et al. especially among children at risk of reading failure (Hatcher et al. thus showing that phonological-awareness training before first grade is especially useful in helping low achievers to grasp the alphabetic principle (the PHO1 effect size was . LIMA and DOYEN very low-status homes also obtained significantly lower alphabetic scores than their more advantaged counterparts. code skills at the very beginning of reading acquisition. First. So. Inter-individual variance and interschool variance remained approximately the same and only two fixed effects were significant. among the prekindergarten oral language measures. even though it was only marginally significant.. and interact with. the transition from Models 1 to 2 did not significantly improve the statistical fit of the model.58 for 4year-olds who performed at one standard deviation below the mean. BRESSOUX. Catts et al. as mentioned above. phonological awareness was the only one found to significantly predict lexical reading skills in first grade. Together. Nation. it was . 1999.06 for 4year-olds who performed at one standard deviation above the mean). LAMBERT. only PHO1. 2b and 2c). 2005. the children’s initial language skills explained less of the inter-individual variance (14%) and more of the inter-school variance (24%).  5 . The between-school oral-language (phonological awareness as well as oral comprehension) slope variance was nonsignificant.7. thus indicating that the school effects were similar irrespective of the children’s initial oral-language skills. p4. the effect of phonological training interacted with the children’s initial phonological awareness score in prekindergarten. 2a. because it is consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that along with code skills... This supports the idea that oral comprehension might possibly be involved in. Second and as previously observed. delta  2log L (df 5 6) 5 8. which had been trained in phonological skills for 2 years before first grade. This result will be further addressed in the discussion. 2005. that group CS1 tended to outperform the control group on alphabetic skills (effect size. achieved better alphabetic performance than the control group (predictions 2a and 2c). 2a. The third result is related to the experimental groups: of the four groups.16 442 BIANCO. Interestingly. delta  2log L (df 5 3) 5 97. No other variable reached significance. 2005). PELLENQ. This finding confirms the widely accepted idea that oral code skills provide vital input for future reading acquisition.. Finally. The results for the first graders’ lexical skills are presented in Table 5. NICHD. The first model (Model 0) showed that inter-individual variance accounted for most of the total variance (86%) but that inter-school variance was also significant and represented 14% of the total variance. Oral comprehension and vocabulary measured in prekindergarten did not predict early lexical skills. but contrary to what was observed for reading comprehension and alphabetic skills.10. Model 1 introduced initial language performance measured in prekindergarten. children from very low-status homes also significantly underperformed on lexical skills as compared with their more advantaged counterparts. Random effects were reduced.25) – deserves attention. the results are inconsistent with our predictions (1c. these three variables gave a better model fit. as regressors.0001. 2002. Copyright r 2011 UKLA .3. 2b or 2c) as the only variable that explained a significant part of the variance in emerging lexical reading skills was prekindergarten phonological awareness. De Jong & Van der Leij. 2006).

2250  0. the hierarchical linear models provided clear-cut answers to our research questions..0001. * po. Fixed effects Estimation (SD). Third. socioeconomic status.7463 (0.2920 0. Morrison & Katch.102)* (0. 2008).0433 0. 86% for lexical reading skills and 80% for reading comprehension.074) 0.130) (0.1023 (0.0161 0.185) 0. Hatcher et al.6 PK.17 443 EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE Table 5. 2009. Pr4/t/ Model 0 Intercept Comprehension in PK Phonology in PK Vocabulary in PK SES (low) SES (very low) CS1 CS2 PHO1 PHO2 Random effects Level 2 Intercept (school) Level 1 (inter-individual)  2log L N 5 679 Model 1  0.0523 0. Connor.7380 (0. SES.046)** 0.203) (0.033)** 0.3104 0. Morisson & Slominski.001.2003  0. Hierarchical linear models explaining lexical reading skills in first grade. 2004.041)*** 1870.1410 (0. prekindergarten. This result converges with recent findings evidenced by Connor and collaborators showing that teaching practices have differential effects depending on children’s initial level (Connor. 2006. By contrast. this study showed that students from very low-status families performed less well on both word identification and reading comprehension. ***po.0533 0.1085 (0.1422 (0.0159  0. First of all.0559 (0.041) (0.64 1773. Connor et al.043)*** (0. respectively. this study enabled us to distinguish between inter-individual variance and inter-school variance. Second.208) (0.8569 (0.035)** 0.1823 0. it was predicted that both Copyright r 2011 UKLA .066) (0. their improvement through classroom training activities in preschool.184) (0. 2002.05. **po.041) Model 2 0. It brought out two main findings.046) (0. Slavin.3 1764. Discussion The use of hierarchical linear models in this study made it possible to describe the relationship between early oral-language skills. and reading acquisition in first grade. With respect to the role of early language skills. and 14% and 11% for lexical and alphabetic skills.and high-achieving children and weaker for average children.048)*** 0.046) (0. Empty models revealed that the inter-individual variance was 88.0015 (0. (1) Inter-individual variance was much higher than inter-school variance. (2) The variance in the slopes on reading comprehension showed that the school effect depended on the children’s initial level: it was stronger for low.1483  0.1760  0.041)*** 0. a result that is consistent with a large body of data and emphasises the need to develop research-grounded programmes to prevent early difficulties in at-risk children (Bressoux & Zorman.5% for alphabetic reading skills. 2006..086) (0. 2009). the inter-school variance was 22% for reading comprehension.044)*** (0.

thus indicating that this is a valid medium-term effect. However. and Bowyer-Crane and colleagues selected children of below average ability whereas we included all children in the classes involved in the study. that is.. This is exactly what we observed: early phonological awareness and oral comprehension measured 2 years before the children started learning to read in an academic setting accounted for a significant and unique part of the variance in both word identification and reading comprehension. the authors of that study failed to demonstrate an effect of their oral language training on literacy acquisition. and that oral-language skills would be an especially important predictor of reading comprehension. Most importantly. and that this directly enhances comprehension during the very first months of the reading-acquisition process. This oral language training effect is entirely new. and this same group was the one that performed the best on alphabetic skills. and oral comprehension explained more of the variance in reading comprehension. 2008. Snowling. Nation. Second. group CS1 benefited more from training in oral comprehension than group CS2 did. 2009. since to our knowledge.. (2010) study on the development of oral-language skills. and this was the only group to exhibit lasting effects on oral comprehension in first grade. As indicated above. 2005). But it also provides additional support for the growing body of empirical research suggesting that code skills are only part of the story. and our PHO programme significantly improved children’s phonological awareness but not their oral comprehension. At the same time. group PHO1 was the only one to benefit from the phonological awareness training. LAMBERT. 2009a. and that the resulting improvement is directly beneficial to the acquisition of alphabetic reading skills. This result provides further evidence supporting the longstanding claim that the development of oral code skills is a major predictor of reading acquisition. BRESSOUX.18 444 BIANCO. these two broad skills. only one study examining the impact of early orallanguage training on literacy development has been published to date (by BowyerCrane et al. 2009. NICHD. exhibited equally strong but opposite effects: phonological skills explained more of the variance in alphabetic reading skills. 2008). This finding extends Nation and Snowling’s (2004) results (obtained with older children. Moreover. the observed training effects seem very robust: (1) they were still observed 9 months after training. Moreover. It is necessary to obtain further evidence on this issue. Even more importantly. while significant on both alphabetic and reading-comprehension measures. 2009b). CS1 also achieved the best reading Copyright r 2011 UKLA . and that higher-order language skills developed before learning to read play a role in helping children to build word-identification mechanisms and to understand what they decode (Casalis & Cole´. Our final important results are related to the effects of training. we showed that higher-order oral-language skills can also be improved by early targeted training. However. a full range of normally developing children. our CS programme significantly improved children’s oral comprehension but not their phonological awareness. Nation & Cocksey. LIMA and DOYEN phonological skills and oral-language skills would each help explain the very early stages of word identification and reading comprehension. 2005. First. we were able to replicate the classical finding showing that phonological-awareness skills can be taught at a very young age. (2) They are entirely consistent with the training effects reported in the Bianco et al. the two training programmes were different. ages 8–13) to the very beginning of the literacy-acquisition process (see also Kendeou et al. especially for low-achieving children. our data clearly showed that oral-comprehension skills are involved early on in the course of reading acquisition. PELLENQ. Note that there are several differences between the Bowyer-Crane and colleagues study and the one reported here.

insofar as vocabulary is recognised as a crucial dimension of language development and an important contributor to reading acquisition. especially vocabulary. It follows that the sentences and texts we used were composed of ‘decodable’ words. and to examine its relationship to early oral-language skills. NICHD. some contradictory data do exist (Muter et al. The first result concerns the relationships between early oral-language skills. to our knowledge. Furthermore. We acknowledge that the low internal consistency of our prekindergarten vocabulary measure constitutes the first limitation of this study and does not allow us to draw a firm conclusion on this point. Regarding reading comprehension.EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 19 445 comprehension and made significant progress on word identification in the present analyses. however. As stated in the method section. While this result further confirms the importance of early code skills in reading acquisition. as these skills involve some understanding of the morphological structure of words. With respect to the relationship between vocabulary development and early word-identification skills. 2005). to also be important predictors of lexical skills. predicted first-grade word-identification ability. Another important and equally new result is that these oral skills can be taught in an ordinary preschool setting. 2004. training programmes and lexical reading skills in first grade. This is the second result that deserves attention. This can also explain why the prekindergarten vocabulary scores did not contribute to overall first-grade reading-comprehension performance. and thus frequent French words likely to be known by almost all children. let us mention two other results and some limitations of this study. It is possible that the null effect observed for the two groups trained for only one semester during kindergarten (CS2 and Copyright r 2011 UKLA . Our hierarchical linear models showed that the only predictor of lexical skills was phonological awareness in prekindergarten. we decided to work with a quasi-experimental protocol to make sure that the teachers would be committed to the training programme and would remain motivated throughout the training period. but not their vocabulary. one must use linguistic material that the children can read. Also. This obviously limits the generalisability of our results. Before concluding. which examined the independent contributions of early vocabulary and early orallanguage skills to word reading. this study is the first one to evaluate children’s performance during the very first months of learning to read. the NICHD study. we cannot rule out the possibility that the null effect observed for the predicting value of the prekindergarten vocabulary score may be due to the low internal consistency of our prekindergarten vocabulary scale. as this measure was taken very early in the process of learning to read (7 months after the children had begun academic reading acquisition) and therefore tapped emergent lexical skills. an overall null effect of the prekindergarten vocabulary score was observed for all three firstgrade reading measures. which is what we found here with French-speaking children. For reading comprehension. leading to improvement in both oral and reading comprehension. recall that in order to evaluate reading comprehension in first grade. The second and most important limitation is that the assignment of teachers and children to the experimental groups was not randomised. Moreover. we can assume that our measure of lexical word-identification skills was not sensitive enough. we could have expected higher-order skills.. found that 54-month-olds’ oral skills. A very important and entirely new finding obtained here is that early oral comprehension played a role in reading comprehension as early as first grade. However. the sample attrition and the nonequivalence of the experimental groups are probably due to some extent to the initial experimental design. To explain this.

BRESSOUX. it can also be of direct value for later reading and comprehension development. Oakhill & Cain. . for they lie at the heart of text comprehension (Cain et al. Catts et al. selective effects of comprehension and oral phonology skills and training obtained here on reading skills cannot be accounted for in terms of biases caused by nonrandom assignment. 2010.. 2005). 2009. which posits that code skills. 2003. Our results are consistent with the theoretical claim of continuity between overall oral-language development and reading acquisition.. 2005. early oral-language training needs to be offered regularly over a sufficiently long period of time if it is to be efficient. 2010). Scarborough. We contend that this is the only way to accompany children on the pathway towards reading mastery and towards acquiring the ability to understand and learn from the texts they read. such as vocabulary and syntax. Moreover. The second result is that enhancing oral-comprehension skills in a targeted pedagogical setting integrated into the everyday classroom curriculum can do more than just improve these oral skills (Bianco et al. our study clearly points out the value of incorporating activities explicitly aimed at developing children’s oral-comprehension skills at a very early age. LAMBERT. we prefer to assume that. even in those readers with decoding difficulties.. when used in natural classroom settings. Kendeou et al. . This also applies to inferencing. Nation. 2007) and can be effectively taught orally or in a multimedia setting (Bianco et al. The first is that both early code skills and oral-language skills influenced alphabetic reading and reading comprehension in first grade. insofar as the present results are entirely consistent with observations recorded for the initial sample in an analysis of the training effects on orallanguage skills (Bianco et al. 2005. 2005. 2010). Duff et al. 2005. NICHD. Snowling. and deserve further research to gain insight into which of the many oral-comprehension skills are specifically linked to reading skills. ‘We must be careful not to focus on promoting decoding skills to the exclusion of comprehension skills. also interact with other broader language skills at a very early stage (Catts et al.. 1999.. the results showed that the predictive strengths of these two broad skills were equal but reversed at the early stages of reading: phonological awareness predicted word identification more strongly than oral comprehension did. 2005). LIMA and DOYEN PHO2) partly results from the fact that these groups scored higher on the target skills at study onset. The contributing role of early oral-comprehension skills to reading comprehension demonstrated here suggests that these skills come into play much earlier than usually stated in the literature. We therefore claim that the positive. The effects of oral-comprehension skills are of particular interest. 2004. However.20 446 BIANCO.. Conclusion Two important results were obtained in this research. Copyright r 2011 UKLA .. . These oral language skills should be an integral part of reading instruction beginning in preschool and throughout elementary school’ (p. and how and when they take effect. In a teaching perspective... As Storch and Whitehurst (2002) said a few years ago. while crucial at the beginning of the reading process. We must not wait until children have solved the decoding puzzle to begin instruction in oral language skills. PELLENQ. monitoring and knowledge-activation skills. Dickinson et al. 944). and of pursuing this effort throughout elementary school in parallel with the teaching of code skills. and vice versa for reading comprehension.

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Kamhi (Eds.ed.D. 51–89. H. Wagner.. G.A. 38. Journal of Learning Disabilities. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.K. Wagner.A. (2007).. C. Catts & A.R. New York: Psychology Press. (pp. & Whitehurst. Snowling. 3–32. B.W.aspx? docid=19&tocid=1.A. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 5–14. S.M. (pp. (2008). doi:10.D. Slavin. D. Torgesen. Literacy outcomes for children with oral language impairments: Developmental interactions between language skills and learning to read. Journal of Educational Psychology. Carlson. (1997). (2002). 38(6). Educational Researcher. In H.00305.K. & Chen. 15–21.0021-9630. T. Specific reading disability (dyslexia): What we have learned in the past four decades. Developmental Psychology.265. Appendix A Example of an activity proposed in the comprehension training programme (CS)4: detection of inconsistencies The children are looking at the picture while the teacher reads a sentence (or story) aloud: ‘It’s time to go to school.. (1998). C. doi:10. Kamhi (Eds.96..1177/ 002221940103400104.J. Vellutino. Scientific Studies of Reading. R. Storch. The connections between language and reading disabilities. (2006). Rashotte.3102/ 0013189X08314117. 934–947. J. et al.R. (2004)..K. G. J. doi:10.A. & Foorman.K. R.A. J.. M.x. R.2003.E. Perspectives on evidence-based research in education – what works? Issues in synthesizing educational program evaluations. Burgess. K. the teacher starts a discussion in order to lead the children to explain the reasons for their individual Copyright r 2011 UKLA . Kindergarten prediction of reading skills: A longitudinal analysis.. (2005).. Child Development.W..A.S. P.1080/10888430709336632.1111/j.3. Fletcher.. Rashotte. Sprenger-Charolles.J. C. J.1037/0012-1649. BRESSOUX. (2001). F. Mommy and Daddy are driving Anthony’.33.24 450 BIANCO.J. (2004). Hecht. Schatschneider. W.R. Conway.. 11(1). Francis.M. LIMA and DOYEN Scarborough.E. doi:10. doi:10.).. Child development and emergent literacy. & Abbott. et al. doi:10. E. D.J. Tunmer. A.1998.). & Scanlon.E. T. S.. Voeller. Procedures and standards handbook. doi:10.1037/0012-1649. 12(1). Developmental Psychology. (2005).2. doi:10. L. S. 37(1). 69(3).G. Whitehurst. R. Components of reading ability: Multivariate evidence for a convergent skills model of reading development.1037/0022-0663. 33–58. Effects of supplemental early reading intervention at 2-year follow-up: Reading skill growth patterns and predictors. Scientific Studies of Reading.tb06247. M.. Washington. 468–476. Oral language and code-related precursors to reading: Evidence from a longitudinal structural model. Fletcher. In H. The connections between language and reading disabilities. R. R.. no: ). Catts & A. 3–24). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.1080/10888430701746906. W. Vadasy.6.M.3102/0013189X031007015.x.. DC: Institute of Education Sciences (IES). 33.R. doi:10.G. 848–872. Reading acquisition and developmental dyslexia.. Evidence-based education policies: Transforming educational practices and research. Intensive remedial instruction for children with severe reading disabilities: Immediate and long-term outcomes for two instructional approaches. 265–282. C. Retrieved from http://ies.. & Lonigan. 45. (2002). Slavin.1046/j.468. PELLENQ. Barker. 31(7).934. Alexander. Changing relations between phonological processing abilities and word-level reading as children develop from beginning to skilled readers: A 5-year longitudinal study. Cole´.J. Jaccard. C.W.F. Educational Researcher. (2008). Once every child has made her/his choice. Vellutino. LAMBERT.1467-8624.J. 96(2). & Serniclaes. 2–40. doi:10. 55–76). Each child has to decide if the picture is a good representation of the text by choosing the right code (yes: . What Works Clearinghouse (2008). P. Sanders. 34. J. Developmental relationships between language and reading: Reconciling a beautiful hypothesis with some ugly facts. F. Snowling.

 Text comprehension – example of an expository text Copyright r 2011 UKLA .Oral comprehension  Sentence comprehension – syntactic skills Choose the right picture: ‘The square in the star is black’. For example. word1: /suri/ (mouse). answer choices: /mari/ (husband) or /ma˜to/ (coat)  Phonological discrimination (vi/ki: Do they sound the same or not?) . and you tell me which word has the same ending.EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 25 451 choices and to arrive at a shared interpretation that points to the reasons why (in the present example) the picture is not a suitable depiction of the situation described in the text. Appendix B Assessment tool used in prekindergarten .Phonological awareness (each item was scored 0 or 1)  Syllabic segmentation  Rhyme recognition: I’ll say (word1) to you.

« Tu viens faire de la luge avec moi? » dit Julien a` Le´a. LIMA and DOYEN L’ours L’ours passe une grande partie de l’hiver endormi dans sa grotte. He loves fish. BIVA ! 8.1 per correct answer) 4. Il raffole du miel qu’il trouve dans les nids d’abeilles sauvages. PELLENQ. « Attention! » Copyright r 2011 UKLA . When spring arrives. PIVA !6. anything else 0. The bear sleeps in his cave most of the winter. /pi/s 2 points. He loves fishing in rivers too. (The Bear. Julien fait monter son chien dans sa luge et part. LAMBERT. the same types of items were used. . Que fait l’ours pendant l’hiver? (What does the bear do during the winter?) He sleeps in his cave/home – He stays in his cave (‘He stays in his home’ not allowed). Il aime aussi peˆcher dans les rivie`res. /pi / or /pio˜/ or /piko˜/ ! 3 points. Les enfants sont sortis tout heureux. . minus 1 point for any letter or grapheme added (example: BRIVA !10. etc.Written comprehension  Sentence comprehension: See prekindergarten.26 452 BIANCO. when a letter or a grapheme is correctly spelled but in the wrong place ! 1 point.) Questions and scoring guidelines 1. Pourquoi est-il maigre et affame´ au printemps? (Why is the bear skinny and starving when spring arrives?) Because he slept the whole time. « On fait la course? » demande Le´a. BIVRA ! 7. (‘Because he has not eaten’ allowed only if Question 1 answered correctly) 3. etc. Ou` trouve t-il le miel? (Where does he find honey?) In a beehive/hole/. Au printemps. il est maigre et affame´.Word reading and spelling (scored 0 or 1) R R Example: ‘chaud’ read / o/ ! 1 point. anything else 0. R minus one pointR for each incorrect or omitted grapheme (example: ‘pichon’ read /pi o˜/ ! 4 points. BRESSOUX. he is skinny and starving. VIVE LA GLISSE! Il vient de neiger et le soleil brille dans les pre´s tous blancs.Pseudoword reading Scoring: One point for each grapheme correctly read.). Qu’aime-t-il manger? (What does the bear like to eat?) (2 answers) Honey and fishes (2 points. in the bee place Assessment tool used in first grade .Pseudoword spelling Scoring: When a letter or a grapheme is correctly spelled and in the right place ! 2 points. 2. Il adore les poissons. He is crazy about the honey he finds in beehives. / a/ spelled ‘chat’ ! 1 point.).  Text comprehension: The child read the text aloud and then answered orally the questions asked by the experimenter. .

Otherwise ! 0 5. Because Julien had his dog on the sled ! 2 points ‘It goes faster when there are two’ ! 1 point. ‘When there are two of you. The fields are all white and glitter under the sun. Questions and scoring guidelines 1. SLEDDING IS FUN! (It just snowed. Other answer ! 0 3. Julien goes so fast that he loses his hat. ‘You cheated!’ protests Lea. Que perd Julien dans la neige? (What did Julien lose in the snow?) His hat ! 1 point 4. ‘Want to race?’ asks Lea. ‘It goes faster when there are two of you!’). A l’arrive´e. A race ! 1 point. tout le monde roule dans la neige. ‘Want to come sledding with me?’ says Julien to Lea. Pourquoi Le´a dit-elle que « c’est de la triche » (Why does Lea say: ‘You cheated?’) (If the child answers something like. « C’est de la triche! » proteste Le´a. the answer must express the idea that Julien was racing with his dog). everybody rolls around in the snow. « c’est parti! » . Qui sont les personnages de cette histoire? (Who are the characters in this story?) (Julien and Lea) ! 2 points (Julien or Lea) or the children ! 1 point. ask him/her what he/she means. Qui gagne la course? (Who wins the race?) The boy/Julien ! 1 point. c¸a va plus vite » . Here I come!’ he shouts. The children went out happily. Que font-il? (What are they doing?) A sled race ! 3 points. ‘Watch out. Anything else ! 0 Copyright r 2011 UKLA .EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 27 453 crie t-il. ‘We won!’ cries Julien. « On a gagne´! » s’e´crit Julien. Sledding ! 2 points. it goes faster’. other answer ! 0 2. « A deux. Julien takes his dog on the sled and takes off. At the bottom. Julien perd son bonnet tellement il va vite.

59 0.00 0.00 0. Oral comprehension (PK) 2.40 1. Oral comprehension (PK) 2.53 1. Reading comprehension 5.00 0.00 0. Copyright r 2011 UKLA .00 0. Alphabetic score 6.27 0. Reading comprehension 5.47 0. nonsignificant or marginally significant coefficients are shown in grey cells). Alphabetic score 6.48 1.53 1.48 0.42 1. Vocabulary (PK) 4.53 0.72 0. Maryse Bianco is assistant professor at Grenoble University. Lexical score Group PHO1 1. Phonology (PK) 3.00 0.37 0. Lexical score 1 2 3 4 5 6 1.00 0.11 0. Oral comprehension (PK) 2.05–.30 0.34 0.63 1.48 0.72 0.30 1. LAMBERT.35 0. (Coefficients significant at po[. Phonology (PK) 3.19 0. BRESSOUX.49 0. Lexical score Group CS2 1. Vocabulary (PK) 4.72 0. and reading comprehension.57 0.57 0.40 0. Reading comprehension 5.26 1.19 1.32 0.36 0.33 0.63 1.27 0.00 0.00 1.00 0.00 0.66 0.00 1.27 1.62 1.19 0.00 0. She especially focused during the past few years on the relationships between oral language development and literacy acquisition and on evidenced-based educational programmes likely to sustain reading acquisition. Reading comprehension 5.09 1. Oral comprehension (PK) 2. Vocabulary (PK) 4.65 0.0001]. Reading comprehension 5.00 0.00 0.50 0.00 0.00 0.51 0. Lexical score Group CS1 1.48 0.00 0.75 0.00 0.55 1. by experimental group.49 0. vocabulary and phonology in prekindergarten.00 0.50 0.46 0.20 1.20 1.23 1. Vocabulary (PK) 4. Alphabetic score 6.00 1. LIMA and DOYEN Appendix C Table C1.00 1.46 0.51 1.38 0.48 0. Oral comprehension (PK) 2.28 0. Her research is centred on text comprehension and its development.53 1.00 0. Phonology (PK) 3.41 1.00 0.17 0. Phonology (PK) 3.30 0.00 0.38 0.33 1. Alphabetic score 6.20 0.53 0. alphabetic and lexical scores in first grade.43 0.00 0.44 0.48 0.70 0.28 0. Alphabetic score 6.00 0.36 1.28 454 BIANCO. Phonology (PK) 3.00 Correlations (Pearson’s coefficient) between oral comprehension.00 0. PELLENQ.51 1.65 0. Vocabulary (PK) 4. Control group 1.43 0.46 0. Lexical score Group PHO2 1. in particular reading comprehension.17 1.00 0.21 1.

Pascal Bressoux is a researcher in the field of school and teacher effectiveness. France. He is also interested in methodological issues. She is also engaged in research on age-related changes in co-speech gesture (from 3 to 11 years old). BP 47. in the Faculty of Education. Eric Lambert is a lecturer in cognitive psychology at the University of Poitiers. particularly in statistical modelling. Received 8 March 2010. Grenoble cedex 9. and member of the laboratory CeRCA.EARLY TRAINING AND READING IN FIRST GRADE 29 455 Catherine Pellenq is a cognitive psychologist working on cognitive and linguistic development. Universite´ Pierre-Mende`s-France. Her research interests are in handedness (measure and familial resemblance) and in writing production (development of invented spelling and utilization of abbreviation in dyslexic students). Address for correspondence: Maryse Bianco. revised version received 29 October 2010. in the Faculty of Education.bianco@upmf-grenoble. Laurent Lima is an assistant professor in educational Copyright r 2011 UKLA . Anne-Lise Doyen is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Orleans. She has especially studied the effectiveness of preschool educational programmes on later reading and mathematics achievement. He is also engaged in studies in judgements of higher education students on studies quality and employment perspectives. His research interests are in the areas of writing production and more precisely the question of spelling during the handwriting production and the development of these dynamics. His main research interests focus on the effects of schools and teachers on students’ achievement and self-perceptions. Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Education. His current research focuses on reading comprehension and teaching. E-mail: maryse. especially on the relationship between teaching practices and students’ learning. F-38040.