Susan A. Brady
Dept. of Psychol., Univ. of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881
Haskins Labs., 270 Crown St., New Haven, CT 06510
Anne E. Fowler
Haskins Labs., New Haven, CT 06510
In the field of reading disability, the major finding of the last 25 years is that poor readers have difficulty attaining explicit awareness of the phonemic components of language. This insensitivity to the phonemic structure of words makes it correspondingly hard to master an alphabetic writing system representing those phonemes. An important question still under investigation is whether difficulty achieving phonemic awareness is entirely a metacognitive problem or whether it might stem from more basic deficits in perception. Using several paradigms (e.g., categorical perception tasks, speech perception in noise, word repetition), the research on this issue has generally supported two conclusions. First, less-skilled readers apply similar strategies but do so less efficiently and/or less accurately than better readers. Second, these difficulties are restricted to the linguistic domain: less-skilled readers perform as well as better readers on nonspeech control tasks. Current work is exploring the association between the emergence of phonemic awareness and developmental change in the underlying form of the phonological representations of words.