Learning to read efficiently is one of the main skills that children has to learn in school and is important in order to functioning well in modern society. Even if children's reading skills seem to be related to their socioeconomic status, only a few studies have examined how SES is related to the development of reading skills in children facing severe poverty. This study traced 322 Roma children facing severe poverty from 7 through 9 years and compared them with an unselected sample of 178 Romanian non-Roma children. The Roma children had both poorer initial reading and a slower growth of their reading skills. In contrast to previous studies, SES did explain growth in reading skills after controlling for other well-known cognitive and linguistic predictors of reading. Among the Roma children, the effects of SES on reading growth were partly mediated by school absence. Thus, interventions directed at Roma children facing severe poverty need to target both the quality of reading instruction and broader aspects of these children's lives.
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