Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Phonological Awareness and Working Memory in Arabic-Speaking Egyptian Preschool Children at Risk for Dyslexia

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Phonological Awareness and Working Memory in Arabic-Speaking Egyptian Preschool Children at Risk for Dyslexia

Article excerpt


This purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between phonological awareness, verbal working memory, and risk for dyslexia in Arabic language in preschool children. The participants of this study were preschool children between the ages of five and six, who represented two groups: (20) children at risk for dyslexia and (20) children normal without any risk for dyslexia. These children were randomly selected from a larger sample of 425 preschool children in Egypt. Phonological awareness and verbal working memory tasks were used to compare children's abilities. The findings indicate that there is a strong relationship between phonological awareness and working memory. In addition, phonological awareness and working memory may have an effect on children's phonological sensitivity and reading skills.

Keywords: phonological awareness, working memory, dyslexia

1. Introduction

In this study the relationship between phonological awareness (PA) and working memory (WM) in Arabic-speaking preschool children in Egypt who are at risk for dyslexia, and their counterparts, was investigated. Although this relationship is well understood in the context of English-language speakers (Brack, 1992; Brack & Treiman, 1990; Swan & Goswami, 1997), few studies in the Arabic-language literature have examined these variables (Ashour, 2011; Khalil & Dowah, 2007; Othman, 2009; Zayed, 2011) let alone the relationship between both PA and WM in children at risk for dyslexia. Poor PA, however, has been found to be a strong indicator of dyslexia among Arabic-speakers (Al Mannai & Everatt, 2005; Ashour, 2011; Othman, 2009) and subsequent interventions have been successful in remediating the reading disorder (e.g., Ashour, 2011). To date, there are insufficient empirical studies in the Arabic-language literature to describe the problem of dyslexia in Egypt (Elbeheri, 2004, 2007; Elbeheri, Everatt, Reid, & Al Mannai, 2006; Gilgil, 1995).

Studies considering the effect of WM on dyslexia have also found that WM has a strong influence on the ability to read and spell in Arabic (Khalil & Dowah, 2007; Zayed, 2011). However, these studies did not investigate the theoretical relationship between WM and PA in combination for children in this population. The authors, therefore, have considered both PA and WM in this study to identify their role in dyslexia. The goal was to contribute to the Arabic-language reading research by examining the relationship of the aforementioned variables. The research questions were as follows: what is the relationship between PA and WM for Arabic-speaking preschoolers at risk for dyslexia compared to others? Do those at risk demonstrate poorer skills in terms of PA and WM?

2. Literature Review

Dyslexia is commonly understood to involve spelling and reading difficulties that are "discrepant with intelligence and educational opportunities" (de Bree, 2007, p. 6). It is typically considered a language-based disorder (e.g., Catts, 1989; de Bree, 2007; Kamhi & Catts, 1986; Vellutino, 1979) that is characterized by a number of deficits. Phonological processing, in particular impairments related to phonological awareness (PA), is considered one of the core deficits characterizing dyslexia (Carroll & Snowling, 2004; Joanisse, Manis, Keating, & Seidenberg, 2000). PA refers to the explicit knowledge of the units that make up spoken words including syllables, onset and rime units and individual phonemes (Rvachew, Ohberg, Grawburg, & Heyding, 2003) and has been defined as the awareness of and access to the sound structure of one's oral language (Wagner & Torgesen, 1987). PA involves the awareness of the most basic speech units of a language, phonemes, as well as the larger units, such as rimes and syllables (Bird, Bishop, & Freeman, 1995; Rvachew et al., 2003; Stackhouse, Wells, Pascoe, & Rees, 2002).

Although dyslexia is "generally acknowledged to involve difficulties in phonological processing, the links between reading difficulties and speech difficulties remain unclear" (Carroll & Snowling, 2004, p. …

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