Academic journal article Exceptional Children

What We Know about Correlates of Reading

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

What We Know about Correlates of Reading

Article excerpt

During the past 50 years, researchers have explored the relationship between reading and many different abilities. Generally, these investigators were studying theoretical questions about the nature of reading; they were trying to discover and train abilities that they believed were prerequisites for learning to read; or, they were attempting to identify predictors of reading failure that could be used in screening efforts to find children who have reading problems or who are at risk for developing them. By most standards, all that theorizing and searching has been unsuccessful. Large numbers of children continue to experience reading failure in school, and national interest in reading and reading problems as a societal concern has intensified recently as evidenced by

* The National Research Council's (NRC) report, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998) that reviewed research to identify possible factors that are critical to successful beginning reading.

* The Report of the National Reading Panel, Teaching Children to Read (National Reading Panel, 2000) that extended the work of the NRC by summarizing a larger body of research and by including the results obtained from regional public hearings resulting in oral or written testimony from 125 individuals or organizations who represented an array of interested parties.

* The No Child Left Behind Act signed into law in January 2002, that requires that all children will become proficient readers using scientifically based reading programs (as indicated in the findings of the National Reading Panel's report).

A major goal of all this activity is to identify and teach children to use those abilities that have the most relevance for learning to read. Correlation is a commonly used technique for finding those abilities and for documenting their importance to instruction. Abilities that correlate with reading to a meaningful degree are viewed as more important than those that do not.

Fortunately, a large body of relevant research that deals with correlates of reading has accumulated over the past 50 years. Surprisingly, only a few researchers have used meta-analysis to summarize and interpret the vast array of correlation coefficients produced by this research.

Meta-analysis refers to a group of statistical techniques used to combine the results of a collection of studies. This type of analysis is helpful for several reasons. First, researchers who use meta-analysis usually focus only on those investigations that meet accepted criteria for well-designed studies. Second, the results of an aggregation of studies based on multiple sources of data are potentially more valid than the results of any single study. Therefore, the combined results of meta-analyses of correlates of reading (i.e., a meta-analysis of meta-analyses) should yield more definitive findings than any single meta-analysis. The present study was (a) to analyze and interpret the combined results of three extensive meta-analyses that examined the extent to which a variety of measures of specific abilities relate to reading achievement and (b) to discusses the relevance of the results to identification and intervention procedures.


The three meta-analyses used in the present study are described in this section. How their results were combined and analyzed is explained.


The three meta-analyses used in this study were conducted by Hammill and McNutt (1981), Scarborough (1998), and Swanson, Trainin, Necoechea, and Hammill (2003). These researchers used different criteria to locate a large number of suitable studies. They also studied the relationship of a wide variety of abilities to reading. The researchers reviewed both concurrent (prediction at a point in time) and longitudinal (prediction across time) relationships. Specifically, Hammill and McNutt reviewed both concurrent and longitudinal relationships; Scarborough reviewed longitudinal relationships; and, Swanson et al. …

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