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How children learn to read: dissecting the process of orthographic learning

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:41 authored by Hua-Chen Wang
Learning to read new words is one of most important skills that a child has to master in order to become a proficient reader. The transition from laboriously sounding out a new word to the automatic recognition of the word is referred to as 'orthographic learning'. In this thesis, I break down the process of orthographic learning and examine the components involved in this process with both typically-developing and dyslexic readers, in the framework of the self-teaching hypothesis (Share, 1995) and the dual route model of reading. Across 5 papers, I used two novel orthographic learning paradigms to explore the role of phonological decoding, context, vocabulary knowledge, orthographic knowledge, and paired-associate learning ability in the process of orthographic learning. -- The first paper investigated the effect of context on orthographic learning of regular and irregular words. The second paper directly tested the self-teaching hypothesis and the role of phonological decoding in orthographic learning using regular and irregular novel words. The third paper examined the predictors in orthographic learning of regular and irregular words. The fourth and fifth papers explored orthographic learning with two specific subtypes of dyslexic readers. -- The principal findings of this thesis were: contextual information and the meaning of a novel word only assisted orthographic learning when the novel word to be learned had irregular letter-sound mapping; orthographic learning was less effective when the novel word was irregular and decoding could only be partial; the relationship between orthographic learning and phonological decoding did not hold at an item-level; vocabulary knowledge assisted orthographic learning of irregular words only; and different impairments in the reading process affect orthographic learning differently. These findings suggest that the relationship between phonological decoding skills and orthographic learning is not as straightforward as proposed in the literature, and provides support for the involvement of additional components.


Table of Contents

General introduction -- Paper 1: Context affects orthographic learning of regular and irregular words -- Paper 2: Word regularity affects orthographic learning -- Paper 3: Predictors of orthographic learning for regular and irregular words -- Paper 4: Tracking orthographic learning in children with different types of dyslexia -- Paper 5: Dissecting the components of orthographic learning: evidence from two cases with dyslexia -- General discussion.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Anne Castles

Additional Supervisor 1

Lyndsey Nickels


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Hua-Chen Wang 2012.




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