The contribution of phonological skills to spelling, word recognition, and reading comprehension in learning-disabled and achieving readers

John Francis Kugler, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relative contribution of phonological skills to the word recognition, spelling, and reading comprehension of learning disabled and achieving readers. A learning disabled sample (LD) consisting of 38 students (mean age = 10.10 years) was compared to two achieving reader groups: a younger, reading level matched sample (RL) consisting of 41 students (mean age = 9.2 years) and an older, chronological age matched group (CA) consisting of 42 students (mean age = 11.2 years). Tests of both phonological accuracy and speed were used to assess phonological abilities. The skills that were compared included word recognition (Woodcock-Johnson Letter-Word section), reading comprehension (Woodcock-Johnson Passage Comprehension section), and spelling (WRAT-R spelling section). Data were analyzed using means, standard deviations, and ANOVAs to assess differences between the reading groups. Multiple regression analysis identified the relative contributions of different phonological skills to spelling and reading processes. A discriminant analysis explored the amount of association of phonological skills to reading group. Results of the regression analyses indicated that measures of phonological accuracy provided the greatest contribution to the prediction of word recognition and reading comprehension for all three reading groups. The strongest relationships were seen for the less skilled readers (i.e., the LD and RL groups). The results of the analysis for spelling found that phonological accuracy measures predicted for the less skilled readers, but did not predict for the CA group. Measures of phonological speed contributed additional variance to the prediction of word recognition and spelling for the LD group, and to the prediction of word recognition for the RL readers, but did not contribute to any of the equations for the CA group. A discriminant analysis performed using the phonological measures as predictors accounted for 32% of the variance that differentiated the three reading groups, with rapid naming of colors providing the greatest contribution to this function. The results support the importance of phonological skills in the acquisition of reading and spelling skills. However, the prominence of these skills diminishes as the reader gains in proficiency. As the achieving reader masters these skills, the contribution of other skills increases. The LD student, who has not acquired phonological skills, still attempts to use them, albeit unsuccessfully, when trying to read and write.

Subject Area

Cognitive therapy|Educational psychology|Literacy|Reading instruction|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Kugler, John Francis, "The contribution of phonological skills to spelling, word recognition, and reading comprehension in learning-disabled and achieving readers" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9809007.