This study examined phonological awareness (PA) and literacy among 108 children aged 7-10 years, who were attending (or not attending) school in rural East Africa. Implicit and explicit PA skill with small or large units was related to letter naming ability. Basic PA develops prior to the attainment of literacy, and learning to read improves PA.
Authors: K.J. Alcock, D. Ngorosho, C. Deus, & M.C.H. Jukes
Source: Alcock, K.J., Ngorosho, D., Deus, C., & Jukes, M.C.H. (2009). We do not have language at our house: disentangling the relationship between phonological awareness, schooling, and literacy. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 55–76. DOI:10.1348/000709909X424411
The aim of this study was to examine phonological awareness (PA) and literacy among 108 children aged 7–10 years, who were attending (or not attending) school in rural East Africa. Implicit and explicit PA skill with small or large units was related to letter naming ability. Some PA tasks were performed above chance levels by children who could not recognise letters. Basic PA develops prior to the attainment of literacy, and learning to read improves PA.
What is the structure of PA?
This study was conducted in coastal Tanzania, where approximately 65% of children attend school. The language spoken is Kiswahili. Children are not explicitly taught the phonemes associated with letters, only the syllabic letter name. Some of the children not in school can nonetheless read, while some attending school cannot. This study examines the influence of literacy experience and skill on PA using tasks at a variety of levels of representation and variety of levels of response.
108 children (54 boys and 54 girls) with between 0 and 2 years of educational experience participated in the study. They were between 7 and 10 years old and all spoke Kiswahili.
Performance of PA tasks at a variety of levels of response or size of unit was related to the ability to perform on the letter reading task at above chance levels. This is consistent with the hypothesis that basic letter reading ability would influence PA. Neither verbal cognitive test performance, nor family or environmental variables explained the relationship between PA and letter naming. This might be because learning to read alters the way children carry out PA tasks. Children who have not yet learned to read are capable of performing above chance on PA tasks, but the main predictor of performance is letter naming ability, whilst some of the PA tasks appear impossible for non-readers. These results provide evidence of implicit PA and some evidence of more explicit PA among children who had not yet learned to read letters.