Theory-Based Prediction of Early Reading

  • John R. Kirby
  • Rauno K. Parrila


This article presents a theory of the cognitive processes involved in learning to read and examines the degree to which measures derived from this theory are able to predict success in reading. Measures were selected to address five phonological processing constructs (naming speed, memory, rhyming, phonological synthesis, and phonological analysis), letter knowledge, and the ability to pronounce words by analyzing them into smaller parts (decoding). Measures of these constructs and several measures of reading achievement were administered to an initial sample of 161 kindergarten children and then readministered to as many of the same children as possible in grades 1 and 2; in grade 3 the reading achievement tests were administered. Principal components analyses were used to derive factor scores for the phonological constructs in kindergarten and grades 1 and 2. In grade 2 five factors were found, but in kindergarten and grade 1 the phonological synthesis and analysis measures formed one phonological awareness factor. The factor scores, letter knowledge, decoding, and the reading achievement scores for each grade were used as predictors of reading achievement in subsequent grades in a series of hierarchical regression analyses. Results supported the proposed theory, with phonological awareness (or analysis), naming speed, and letter recognition being the most frequent significant predictors and R2s ranging from .69 to .89. The constructs identified in the theory are argued to be important targets for both assessment and instruction. The value of theoretical models of achievement is discussed.