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Exploring the relations between oral language and reading instruction in a computational model of reading

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Abstract

To become a proficient reader, children have to learn mappings between print, sound and meaning. There is debate over whether reading instruction should focus on the relations between print and sound, as in phonics, or on the relationship between print and meaning, as in sight word reading. In a study where participants learned a novel artificial orthography, Taylor, Davis and Rastle (submitted) compared print to sound focused or print to meaning focused reading training, demonstrating that sound training was superior for learning to read. However, a benefit from sound focused training is likely dependent on prior acquisition of effective sound to meaning relations of words. To explore this issue, we developed a connectionist model of reading. We exposed the model to a sound or a meaning focused training, but varied the model’s pre-acquired oral language skills. The simulation results showed that proficiency in oral language is a determinant of the advantage of print to sound focused reading training, indicating that reading training should address both oral language skills and print to sound mappings.