The development of reading skills in young partially sighted readers


  • Michael Tobin,

  • Eileen W. Hill

Address for correspondence:  Prof. Michael Tobin  Birmingham University School of Education  Edgbaston  Birmingham B15 2TT  UK  Email:


Young learners with severe visual impairments are restricted in many ways, and psychologists and special needs teachers require information about the nature and extent of the possible educationally handicapping effects. This article, written by Michael Tobin, Emeritus Professor of Special Education within the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, and Eileen Hill, a teacher at Queen Alexandra College, Birmingham, reports the use of a longitudinal approach to measure how reading development is affected in these children and to uncover the relationships with and among other cognitive factors. The 60 participants were part of a larger cohort of children registered as blind or partially sighted, their reading progress being monitored from seven to 12 years of age. While improving in all three skill areas as measured by the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability, there were significant deficits/lags in development as compared with the norms for their fully-sighted age peers, especially in speed of reading. Even more disturbing was the finding that the deficits increased with age. Significant correlates of reading, changing in importance over time, were intelligence, visual efficiency, phonological awareness, vocabulary knowledge and short-term memory. It is proposed that, if the educationally handicapping effects of the impairment are to be overcome, a formal, regular cycle of testing to monitor progress be instituted by specialist teachers and educational psychologists. together with the design, development and standardisation of a new reading assessment procedure; and that the professionals collaborate in the construction of programmes of continuing structured teaching to improve speed of reading throughout primary and early secondary schooling.