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Test predicts children's school first year reading success

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Gail Gillon
Gail Gillon

Latest research at the University of Canterbury (UC) College of Education has found that a simple computer test at school entry can accurately predict children’s end of first year reading success with 92 percent accuracy.

At least 15 percent of the population have some reading difficulties and it’s estimated that five percent of New Zealand children suffer from dyslexia, UC Pro Vice-Chancellor Gail Gillon said today.

Significant scientific advancements in understanding dyslexia have been made in recent years. But have these advancements led to the possibility of preventing persistent reading and spelling difficulties that characterise dyslexia?

A first step towards the prevention of this language disorder is to understand which children are at risk. It’s significant that our college research has unearthed this way to predict a child’s end of first year reading success with 92 percent accuracy. A first step towards the prevention of this language disorder is to understand which children are at risk.’’

Professor Gillon will talk about dyslexia and learning at UC’s What if Wednesday public lecture on campus this week.

Despite strong investment in raising literacy achievement for all children inequalities in literacy outcomes continue to exist among some of the world’s most advanced economies, she said.

Ensuring that children become proficient readers in their own classrooms was a critical issue in reading education. International prevalence statistics suggested that up to one in three children struggle with the basic reading and writing skills and that large inequalities existed between good and poor readers in developed nations.

New Zealand has a strong reputation for attaining high levels of literacy achievement and is ranked third among 34 OECD countries in performance. However, in New Zealand there is a large gap between the ability of good and poor readers. It’s important, therefore that educators scrutinise class programmes that may contribute towards successful reading outcomes for all children, particularly those that were currently under-achieving in literacy, Professor Gillon said.

Of concern is the development of literacy abilities in young children with spoken language impairment. These children were four to five times more likely to struggle with reading acquisition due to deficits in underlying skills that support written language development such as phonological awareness and vocabulary development.

Despite new initiatives over the last decade to improve reading standards, the gap between high risk populations and good readers does not appear to be closing. It is critical that educators and researchers investigate how to efficiently and effectively integrate key predictors of literacy success into the classroom to improve reading equality,’’ Professor Gillon said.

University of Canterbury - which currently has 13,000 students, 600 courses and is the third biggest employer in Christchurch - is continuing research in this literacy area.

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