[PS-2.1] Developmental trends in reliance on lexical and sublexical reading strategies

Schmalz, X. , Marinus, E. & Castles, A.

Macquarie University

The current study examined the interplay of lexical and sublexical processing across reading development in 35 English native speakers in Grades 1 to 4. We designed several tasks to determine the degree to which the participants relied on different cognitive reading strategies. Nonword and irregular word reading accuracy were used to assess overall lexical and sublexical processing. The Length and Lexicality effects measured the extent to which the children relied on lexical versus sublexical processing in single-word reading, and whether this depended on their overall reading ability. In addition, we created a series of nonwords to assess the degree to which children relied on the context of each letter-sound correspondence. These nonwords all contained the grapheme 'a', which in different contexts can be pronounced as in 'cat', 'car', 'cake', 'call', or 'what'. We found that, with increasing reading ability, children provided more nonword responses that were appropriate to the context, while younger and less skilled readers gave a larger proportions of implausible 'a'-responses, such as pronouncing the nonword 'kazz' to rhyme with 'maze'. This suggests that there are changes to the nature of sublexical processing as children learn to rely more heavily on the context of each letter-to-sound correspondence to disambiguate the inconsistent grapheme-phoneme correspondences of the English orthography. Exploring the development of the Length and Lexicality effects, we found the Length effect decreases, while the Lexicality effect increases in more skilled compared to beginning readers. This is in line with previous research, suggesting that children increasingly rely on lexical compared to sublexical processing as they become more fluent readers.