Distinguishing between cognitive and experiential causes of reading difficulty

  • Julia M. Carroll (Creator)
  • Jonathan E. Solity (Creator)
  • Laura Shapiro (Creator)



Data collected from individual children attending schools whose headteachers volunteered to participate. We have measured sensory, motor, and cognitive skills at school entry (baseline) and have collected follow up measures of reading at the end of the first, second, third and forth years of formal schooling (Reception, Years 1-3). This design has enabled us to examine which baseline skills have a direct influence, and which skills have an indirect influence on later reading. Our comprehensive battery of cognitive tests also allows us to isolate which early skills are most critical in predicting later reading difficulties. In addition, one of our three schools has implemented the Early Reading Research (ERR) intervention which uses the same teaching methods for children of all abilities. Children are taught on a whole class basis, in mainstream classrooms by children’s regular teachers. Since there are no withdrawal groups for poor readers, teaching experience is equal across all children, allowing clear identification of those who do not respond to whole-class teaching. The impact of the ERR intervention will be compared to the impact of Primary National Strategy (PNS) Literacy Framework for sub-groups of children with particular difficulties at baseline. We completed our data collection in July 2009. We have data from 448 children at baseline, 378 at the end of Reception, 318 at Year 1, 260 at Year 2, 155 at Year 3. Our findings have highlighted speech and auditory (S&A) skills as crucial predictors of early reading development (see Shapiro et al., Dyslexia 2009 15(1):1-22; Shapiro et al., under review). Our analyses regarding cognitive deficits and instruction are still in progress. However, initial findings indicate heterogeneous causes of reading difficulties and that reading difficulties were much less prevalent in the ERR school.

Funding: Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-22-1401)
Date made available8 Jun 2010
Date of data production1 Sept 2005 - 31 Aug 2009
Geographical coverageUnited Kingdom

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