Beyond phonological skills: broader language skills contribute to the development of reading


Address for correspondence: Kate Nation, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3UD, UK. E-mail:


This paper reports a study that followed the development of reading skills in 72 children from the age of 8.5 to 13 years. Each child was administered tests of reading, oral language, phonological skills and nonverbal ability at time 1 and their performance on tests of reading comprehension, word recognition, nonword decoding and exception word reading was assessed at time 2. In addition to phonological skills, three measures of non-phonological oral language tapping vocabulary knowledge and listening comprehension were unique concurrent predictors of both reading comprehension and word recognition at time 1. Importantly, all three measures of oral language skill also contributed unique variance to individual differences in reading comprehension, word recognition and exception word reading four and a half years later, even when the autoregressive effects of early reading skill were controlled. Moreover, the extent to which a child's word recognition departed from the level predicted from their decoding ability correlated with their oral language skills. These findings suggest that children's oral language proficiency, as well as their phonological skills, influences the course of reading development.