There is increasing recognition of the contribution of morphological skills to the development of reading fluency. However, theoretical models and recent research raise questions about how different language skills influence reading development.
The present study was designed to follow the reading development of a large sample of Norwegian children (N = 323) from preschool to Grade 9, assessing their performance on a wide range of language‐related and reading skills including morphological awareness. We employed confirmatory factor analyses of the cognitive, linguistic and reading variables prior to modelling the contribution of the preschool language variables to reading comprehension in Grades 1, 2 and 9.
Preschool measures of phonological, morphological and semantic skills were best represented by a single language latent variable. Reading in Grades 1 and 2, assessed by measures of both decoding and comprehension, was also best represented by a single latent variable. Preschool language skills have long‐range direct and indirect effects on the development of reading comprehension. Overall, preschool language abilities accounted for 69.2% of the variance in reading comprehension 9 years later.
The results demonstrate the powerful influence of early language on later reading and suggest that language intervention programmes, combining phonological, morphological and semantic activities, may help to reduce the incidence of reading problems.
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