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Sensitivity to rime unit frequency and children's early word-reading strategies


Address for correspondence: Emily Coyne, Graduate School, College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK. E-mail:


The current work examines children's sensitivity to rime unit spelling–sound correspondences within the context of early word reading as a way of assessing word-specific influences on early word-reading strategies. Sixty 6–7-year-olds participated in an experimental reading task that comprised word items that shared either frequent or infrequent rime unit correspondences. Retrospective self-reports were taken as measures of strategy choice. The results showed that the children were more accurate in identifying word items that shared a common rime unit (consistent items) when compared with those containing infrequent rime units (unique and exception items). Moreover, while nonlexical (phonological) attempts were most frequently applied across all word types, these resulted in lower levels of accuracy, especially for the exception word items. The current data support the argument that children are increasingly sensitive to rime unit sound–spelling correspondences during the early stages of their word reading and the nature of these word-specific orthographic representations shape their reliance on using particular lexical or non-lexical-based word-reading strategies.