Phonics may be greater problem for poor readers with high IQs

iStock_000006625549XSmallPoor readers seem to have difficulty with a phonological approach to reading, although there has been some conflicting research on this issue. Now a new study in the Journal of Learning Disabilities reports that the IQ of poor readers may help to explain some of these discrepancies.

High-IQ poor readers appear to have more difficulty taking a phonological approach to reading than low-IQ poor readers.

“This study replicates and extends that of Badian (1996), showing that high-IQ poor readers showed a consistent pattern of phonological reading difficulties, but that low-IQ poor readers showed a milder phonological deficit,” the researchers conclude.

The researchers are quick to add that a different pattern of performance does not mean one group of students should get less help in phonemic awareness than another, but only that there is a continuum of severe to mild phonological deficits.

“The poor readers with IQ scores of 90 and below in the present study showed a pattern of performance that was more consistent with a developmental lag,” the researchers note.  They showed a more phonological approach to reading, with better reading of regular than irregular words and with nonword reading skills that were similar to their reading-age controls, although their pace was slower, the researchers write.

Low-IQ poor readers were able to read non-words better than the high-IQ readers. High-IQ readers with IQ scores of 110 and higher not only had impaired non-word reading accuracy for their reading age, but also read regular words less well than low-IQ students.

“Regular words are generally found to be read more quickly and accurately than irregular ones by children and adults,” the researchers say.

In the study, 109 poor readers, age 10-11, who were attending a reading unit for remedial tuition, were matched with 105 reading-age controls. There were also 119 chronological-age controls.

All of the groups were split into higher and lower IQ categories on the basis of whether their IQ was 101 and above or 100 and below. There were 49 poor readers at either extreme of the IQ distribution–IQ above 110 and IQ below 90.

The students performed three tasks–a non-word reading task, a phoneme deletion task and a task that involved reading regular words (best, dance, got) and irregular words (aunt, steak, touch). Students also were timed as they performed their tasks.

“The high-IQ poor readers’ pattern of performance in the present study was in accordance with the prevailing view that poor readers suffer primarily from a phonological deficit, having poor phonological skills for their reading age,” the researchers write.

“The evidence presented here is supportive of the idea that there is a continuum of severe to mild deficits in taking a phonological approach to reading that is associated with IQ levels,” the researchers conclude.

“Toward a Resolution of Inconsistencies in the Phonological Deficit Theory of Reading Disorders” , by Rona Johnston and Marjorie Morrison, Journal of Learning Disabilities Volume 40 Number 1 January/February 2007, pp. 66-79.

Published in ERN February 2007 Volume 20 Number 2

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)