Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Eye Movements, Prosody, and Word Frequency among Average- and High- Skilled Second-Grade Readers

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Eye Movements, Prosody, and Word Frequency among Average- and High- Skilled Second-Grade Readers

Article excerpt

Within the applied field of school psychology, a considerable amount of attention is given to measuring students' oral reading rate with accuracy as a means of evaluating their reading fluency. Much less attention is paid to another key component of reading fluency identified by the National Reading Panel (2000)--reading with expression, which is known as prosody. Yet recent research suggests that prosody explains unique variance in comprehension measured concurrently (Benjamin & Schwanenflugel, 2010; Klauda & Guthrie, 2008; Miller & Schwanenflugel, 2006; Rasinski, Rikli, & Johnston, 2009) and predicts comprehension 2 years later, even after accounting for word reading efficiency (Miller & Schwanenflugel, 2008).

Readers' eye movements underlie oral reading rate and prosody. For young readers, eye movements provide another behavioral indicator of reading fluency, one that is especially valuable as instructional focus shifts away from oral reading. To date, the school psychology literature has not attended to students' eye movements during reading.

Pioneering studies utilizing state-of-the-art technology have begun to map out basic patterns in prosody (e.g., Schwanenflugel, Hamilton, Kuhn, Wisenbaker, & Stahl, 2004) and eye movements (e.g., Huestegge, Radach, Corbic, & Huestegge, 2009; Joseph, Liversedge, Blythe, White, & Rayner, 2009; Rayner, 1986) during passage reading among beginning child readers. By comparing children with higher and lower basic reading skills, researchers have uncovered important clues about how reading fluency develops. The present study brings together the disparate streams of oral and silent reading by assessing the same second-grade children on measures of both prosody during oral reading and eye movements during silent reading. In addition, we evaluated word frequency effects to determine how readers of different abilities handled complexities while reading. In the following, we summarize key findings related to our research questions.

Prosody--Key Component of Fluency in Oral Reading

English has a natural rhythm of stress and pausing that conveys meaning; for example, rising inflection may indicate doubt (Chafe, 1988). Kuhn and Stahl (2003) have argued that comprehension depends not only on oral language and decoding skill (i.e., the simple view of reading; Gough & Tunmer, 1986), but also on prosodic rendering of text. Consistent with this view, Miller and Schwanenflugel (2006) found that prosody evaluated on syntactically complex texts predicted unique variance in reading comprehension beyond that explained by decoding skill among third-grade children. Klauda and Guthrie (2008) found evidence for a reciprocal relationship between comprehension and prosody among fifth-grade readers. Because prosody may both scaffold comprehension and serve as a behavioral indicator of comprehension, it is important for school psychologists to understand how prosodic aspects of children's reading develop as reading skill improves.

Measurement. Prosody encompasses two intuitive notions of skillful reading: expressivity, which is associated with measures of pitch mobility, and fluent word reading, which is associated with appropriate use of pausing (Cowie, Douglas-Cowie, & Wichmann, 2002). Prosody has been measured with rating scales (e.g., Clay & Imlach, 1971) and, more recently, with spectrographic analyses (e.g., Dowhower, 1987; Schwanenflugel et al., 2004). The latter use sophisticated software (e.g., Praat; Boersma & Weenink, 2011) to precisely measure pauses (points of silence) and pitch changes from digital voice recordings. Researchers using this technique typically examine pitch changes across and at the end of sentences, and consider the extent, location, and duration of pauses during reading. Pitch mobility is an overall indicator of prosody. Pausing plays a role in meaning integration--for example, by allowing readers to extract the gist of the preceding text at clause boundaries (Rayner, Kambe, & Duffy, 2000). …

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