|Image Credit Unknown|
There is an interesting summary in this month's Scientific American about a study identifying factors that affect reading rate. Researchers at NYU identified phonics, context clues, and holistic word recognition (overall shape of words) as the three main factors which influence how fast one reads material. (You can geek out over the published study here.)
Using passages from author Mary Higgins Clark's murder mystery Loves Music, Loves to Dance, Pelli and study co-author, undergraduate Katharine Tillman, manipulated passages to block readers from using each of the word-deciphering processes.
To muffle context clues, they shuffled words in a sentence ("contribute others. The of Reading measured"); discrimination via word shape was covered up by inserting random capital letters ("ThIS tExT AlTeRnAtEs iN CaSe."); and to eliminate letter by letter decoding, they substituted similar-looking letters into a word, thereby retaining the ability to use word shape and context, once a reader figured out a previous word ("Tbis sartcrec bes lctfan suhsfitufas").
Pelli says this research paves the way toward better understanding and addressing the deficiencies of young students who fall behind early in reading.
It doesn't appear that the researchers considered an outcome of reading which I think would be more important than rate: comprehension. Does anyone know why rate would be a more desirable aspect of reading to impact with young readers (or, I suppose, anyone of any age learning to read)?