Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Variations in Arabic Reading Skills between Normally Achieving and at Risk for Reading Disability Students in Second and Fourth Grades

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Variations in Arabic Reading Skills between Normally Achieving and at Risk for Reading Disability Students in Second and Fourth Grades

Article excerpt

Abstract

The study investigated variations in Arabic reading skills between normally achieving students and students at risk for reading disability in second and fourth grades. Using a cross-sectional design the study tested the effect of gender, grade level, and student condition on the variation of Arabic reading skills. Participants were 381 Arabic speaking children from second and fourth grades. Participants included both normally achieving students and students who were referred to the Learning Disabilities Unit in elementary schools in Oman. Dependent measures of the study included letter sound identification (LSI), word decoding (WD), phonological awareness (PA) through blending and segmentation, word recognition (WR), reading comprehension (RC), and listening comprehension (LC) in Arabic. Multivariate analysis indicated that gender, grade level and student condition had an effect on variation of reading skills. Additionally, the interaction effect of grade level and student condition as well as the combination of the three independent variables showed similar effects. Significant reading skills varied according to gender, grade level and student condition in addition to the interaction effects. WD, LSI and LC were significant as a result of the interaction effects. The results are discussed in relation to the characteristics of the Arabic language orthography.

Keywords: reading skills, reading disabilities, Arabic orthography

1. Introduction

Acquisition of well-developed literacy skills is a critically important developmental landmark for children. A substantial body of research highlights the drawbacks associated with delayed or disordered acquisition of reading skills (Al-Otaiba & Fuchs, 2006). Children who are poor readers tend to continue to struggle with literacy skills, and read less than their peers who are more skilled in reading. As a consequence, children who are poor readers tend to receive less practice in reading and less exposure to content knowledge, vocabulary, and other language skills than do children who are more skilled in reading (Lonigan, Alan, & Lerner, 2011; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998). Reading and reading-related skills are likely to remain stable from an early point in school (Wagner et al., 1997). Longitudinal studies indicate that children who are poor readers by the end of the first grade almost never acquire average-level reading skills by the end of elementary school without substantial and sustained remediation efforts (Al-Otaiba & Fuchs, 2006; Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1996).

One of the most influential models of reading is the Triangle Model (Plaut et al. 1996), which provides a framework for conceptualizing the development of reading skills. According to the TR which consists of three nodes that form a triangle, the process of reading relies on orthographic, phonological and semantic representations. The model proposes that successful reading is achieved through activation of phonological information, semantic information, or both. The role of phonological representations in learning to read has been highlighted in different orthographies including Arabic (Mahfoudhi, Elbeheri, Al-Rashidi, & Everatt, 2010; Elbeheri & Everatt, 2007). Furthermore, a substantial body of research supports the proposal that difficulties with phonological representations are at the root of reading disabilities including dyslexia (Snowling, 2000). To date, there have been a number of studies which examined phonological awareness for Arabic-speaking students (Taibah & Haynes, 2011; Mahfoudhi, Elbeheri, Al-Rashidi, & Everatt, 2010). There has been, however, less focus on the comparison of the performance of poor and skilled readers on key reading skills as students grow and progress from early to later grades in the elementary school. The variations in such performance are likely to highlight the most important as well as influential reading skills for learning Arabic elementary grades. …

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