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Acquisition of Logographics and the Relationship to Learning Sounds of Letters

Acquisition of Logographics and the Relationship to Learning Sounds of Letters
Evelyn R. Klein, PhD, Katherine V. Soule, Joely A. Wertz
February 14, 2005

Evelyn R. Klein, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Assistant Professor,
Dept. of Speech-Language-Hearing Science
La Salle University
Philadelphia, PA 19141


The scope of practice for speech-language pathologists has expanded in recent years to include support for literacy acquisition. Speech-language pathologists are often critically important in developing children's literacy, enhancing phonological awareness and supporting acquisition of the alphabetic principle (ASHA, 1999). Recent research suggests that delayed acquisition of early literacy skills can be traced to delays in acquiring letter-sound knowledge (Duncan & Seymour, 2000; Hecht, Burgess, Torgesen, Wagner & Rashotte, 2000). The purpose of this study is to analyze the relationship between preschooler's abilities to recall names of novel symbols and learn sounds of letters.

According to Frith (1985) there are three stages associated with learning to read. Each stage builds on the concept of word knowledge to further develop reading. The first stage is termed 'logographic' and although it is visually oriented, it relies more on rote memory of words connected to graphic symbols and may be referred to as visually cued reading. The second stage is called 'alphabetic' and is more analytical than the logographic stage. Word elements and sounds of letters within words are most important. Ehri (1991) referred to this stage as phonetically cued reading. The third stage in Firth's model is called 'orthographic.' This stage requires analysis of groups of words and has been referred to as 'cipher sight word reading' (Ehri, 1991). It occurs when reading is more automatic and fluent. According to Frith (1985), children who are unable to link phonemes to corresponding letters, remain at the logographic stage of literacy. If typically developing children progress through logographic, alphabetic, and orthographic stages, can performance in the earliest stage predict performance in the next stage?

When children begin to learn to read, their allocation of mental resources needed to decode print results in reduced reading comprehension (Kamhi & Catts, 1999). Once they learn to decode and retain orthographic knowledge, information can be retrieved (Ehri, 1991). According to Share and Stanovich (1995) it is the phonological awareness that contributes to the development of orthographic knowledge in memory. Once the visual orthographic image is established as a mental representation, reading becomes more automatic and fluent.

Bastien-Toniazzo and Jullien (2001) support the importance of the logographic phase in learning to read. The same visual imaging system that assists recall of symbols to be associated with words may be critical in the association of sounds to printed letters of the alphabet. It is likely that young children who easily recall novel letters and can pair them with words are those who are more likely to recall images of letters and can pair them with corresponding sounds. Engaging verbal working memory to associate abstract symbols with words, as is done when children read a logographic sign (for example, McDonald's is associated with two golden arches), is an important component of pre-reading skills. In this study, approximately thirty pre-readers at the preschool level took part in an investigation to determine if there was a relationship between learning names of symbols (logographics) and subsequent learning sounds of letters.

Evelyn R. Klein, PhD

Katherine V. Soule

Joely A. Wertz

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