Reading development in upper elementary language minority readers of Hebrew: the specific challenge of fluency

Daphna Shahar-Yames, Anat Prior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined reading proficiency, focusing on fluency, in 56 Russian-speaking language minority (LM) students and 56 native Hebrew-speaking (NH) peers. Fifth-grade students completed measures of Hebrew reading accuracy and fluency from word to text level as well as phonological awareness (PA), RAN and vocabulary. LM students read single words less accurately than NH students, in contrast to previous findings. This result can be understood in the context of Hebrew reading development, the transition to unvowelized reading at this age and the reduced vocabulary knowledge of the LM group. LM students also had lower accuracy and fluency in reading vowelized, and to a greater extent, unvowelized texts. These findings suggest that developing fluent text reading especially in the unvowelized Hebrew script is challenging for LM students, since it requires integrating linguistic and contextual information. Regression analyses demonstrated that although for NH students both PA and RAN were significant predictors of text reading fluency, for LM students PA was a major predictor of fluency, but RAN was not. This finding indicates that LM students relied on basic reading skills, and were less able to recruit automaticity to support fluent reading. Thus, the current results highlight the challenges of developing fluent reading among LM students, and underscore how patterns of achievement and difficulty might be related to the specific linguistic and orthographic characteristics of the societal language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1087
Number of pages23
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Language minority
  • Reading fluency
  • Single word reading
  • Text reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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