van den Boer, M. & de Jong, P. F.
University of Amsterdam
Fluent reading is characterized by rapid and accurate identification of words. It is commonly accepted that such identification relies on the availability of orthographic knowledge. However, whether this orthographic knowledge should be seen as an accumulation of word-specific knowledge in a lexicon acquired through decoding, or as a well-developed associative network of sublexical units is still under debate. We studied this key issue in reading research by looking at the serial and/or parallel reading processes underlying word and nonword reading. Participants were 314 second, third, and fifth graders. The children were administered digit, word and nonword naming tasks. We used latent class analyses to distinguish between readers who processed the letter strings serially or in parallel, based on the correlations of word and nonword reading with serial and discrete digit naming. The two classes of readers were distinguished for both word and nonword reading. The validity of these classes was supported by differences in sensitivity to word and nonword length. Interestingly, the different classes seemed to reflect a developmental shift from reading all letter strings serially, toward parallel processing of words, and later of nonwords. The results do not support current theories on the representation of orthographic knowledge. Rather, the findings would support a model of the reading system that includes initial serial decoding, as well as later parallel activation of phonology from print for all letter strings.