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J Exp Child Psychol. 2000 Jun;76(2):123-50.

Developing normal reading skills: aspects of the visual processes underlying word recognition.

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Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de la Timone, Marseille, France.


Visual word recognition performance of first graders (mean age: 6.6 years) through fifth graders (mean age: 10.8 years) was investigated using an experimental technique that is known to elicit the "viewing position effect" in skilled readers. The results showed that this effect, which consists of a systematic variation of performance as a function of fixation position within words, emerged early at the end of the 1st year of reading instruction. Visual field asymmetries in recognizing individual letters in words were also observed starting from first grade. Effects of word familiarity were obtained as early as in second grade. In contrast to skilled readers, children showed a marked word-length effect, which persisted through the first 5 years of instruction. No other qualitative differences between beginning and skilled readers were apparent. Hence, the basics of reading skills, as measured by the present technique, seem to be attained very early during acquisition. Further experience mainly reduces the time a reader needs to extract visual information from print.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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