How can reading fluency be enhanced in dyslexic children?

At ISTC the W-Read group (Reading and Lexical Processes Lab) has conducted several experimental studies showing that morpheme-based reading can increase reading fluency in children with dyslexia, who are otherwise prone to slow analytical reading processing. 

For children with dyslexia, the presence of familiar root and suffix morphemes in a stimulus (e.g., cass-iere, 'cashier') may lead to faster naming times than in the case of stimuli that are not analyzable in morphemes (e.g., cammello, 'camel'). At ISTC several studies of the W-Read group (Reading and Lexical Processes Lab) have shown that morphemic constituents affect positively the speed of children with dyslexia in reading aloud. This happens for both pseudowords and words; both low-frequency and high-frequency words; both long and short low-frequency words.

These results suggest that access to morphemes may help less skilled readers to compensate the difficulty they show in processing word units in a single fixation. In children with dyslexia, morphemes may provide reading units that are larger than single letters (which entail extremely slow and analytical processing) but are smaller than words (which readers with dyslexia find difficult to process as a whole). Morpheme-based reading can thus reduce the limitations due to analytical reading in less skilled readers and speed up their reading process.

Overall, W-Read studies show that morpheme-based reading aloud may favour reading fluency when whole-word processing is less likely, because of processing limitations on the reader's part. They also show that the reading of Italian children with dyslexia can be based on units larger than single letters, and that larger grain size units, such as morphemes, lead to faster reading performance. Whether the reading advantage shown by readers with dyslexia on morphologically complex stimuli is due to facilitated access to the word's meaning is still to be demonstrated. However, the whole set of these studies strongly suggests that reading based on morphemic units should be given a central role in the training intervention with dyslexic readers of transparent orthographies to increase reading fluency. 

Contact: Cristina Burani

ISTC group: Reading and Lexical Processing Lab

Relevant publications

Burani, C., Marcolini, S., De Luca, M., & Zoccolotti, P. (2008). Morpheme-based reading aloud: Evidence from dyslexic and skilled Italian readers. Cognition, 108, 243-262.

Burani, C., Marcolini, S., & Stella, G. (2002). How early does morpho-lexical reading develop in readers of a shallow orthography? Brain and Language, 81, 568-586.

Marcolini, S., Traficante, D., Zoccolotti, C., & Burani, C. (2011). Word frequency modulates morpheme-based reading in poor and skilled Italian readers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 32, 513-532.

Paizi, D., Zoccolotti, P., & Burani, C. (2010). Lexical reading in Italian developmental dyslexic readers. In: N. Brunswick, S. McDougall, & P. de Mornay Davies (Eds.), Reading and dyslexia in different orthographies (pp. 181-198). London: Psychology Press.

Traficante, D., Marcolini, S., Luci, A., Zoccolotti, P., & Burani, C. (2011). How do roots and suffixes influence reading of pseudowords: A study of Italian children with and without dyslexia. Language and Cognitive Processes, 26, 777-793.