Cunningham, A. J. , Witton, C. , Talcott, J. B. , Burgess, A. & Shapiro, L.
Phonological accounts of reading implicate three aspects of phonological awareness tasks that drive the relationship with reading; a) the language-based nature of the stimuli (words or nonwords), b) the verbal nature of the response, and c) the complexity of the stimuli (words can be segmented into units of speech). Yet, it is uncertain which task characteristics are most important as they are typically confounded. By systematically varying response-type and stimulus complexity across speech and non-speech stimuli, the current study seeks to isolate the characteristics of phonological awareness tasks that drive the prediction of early reading. Four sets of tasks were created; tone stimuli (simple non-speech) requiring a non-verbal response, phonemes (simple speech) requiring a non-verbal response, phonemes requiring a verbal response, and nonwords (complex speech) requiring a verbal response. Tasks were administered to 570 2nd grade children along with standardized tests of reading and non-verbal IQ. Three structural equation models comparing matched sets of tasks were built. Each model consisted of two ?task? factors with a direct link to a reading factor. The following factors predicted unique variance in reading: a) simple speech and non-speech stimuli, b) simple speech requiring a verbal response but not simple speech requiring a non-verbal-response, and c) complex and simple speech stimuli. Results suggest that the prediction of reading by phonological tasks is driven by the verbal nature of the response and not the complexity of the stimuli. Findings highlight the importance of phonological output processes to early reading.