Relationship between levels of oral and written language in beginning readers

Virginia W. Berninger, Adele Proctor, Irma De Bruyn, Roderick Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The validity of a test battery, organized by a theoretical framework of levels of language processing and production, was evaluated at the end of kindergarten and theend of first grade. At the end of kindergarten two levels of oral language, phonemic and lexical, and at the end of first grade three levels of oral language, phonemic, lexical, and text, were correlated with word decoding and reading comprehension. At the end of first grade, the combination of phonemic and lexical skills accounted for more variance in both word decoding and reading comprehension than either phonemic or lexical skills alone. The strength of the relationship between specific levels of oral language and specific component reading skills changed after formal reading instruction was introduced. Functional relationships were found between improvement in phonemic skills or lexical skills and improvement in word decoding. Partial correlations between two levels of oral language with a third partialed out (receptive or expressive task requirements held constant) provided evidence for three semiindependent levels of oral language-phonemic, lexical, and text. Because the battery has concurrent and construct validity, school psychologists can use it to monitor beginning readers in order to prevent reading disabilities due to subtle language dysfunctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-357
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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