Self-teaching in normal and disabled readers

David L. Share, Carmit Shalev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study set out to investigate the self-teaching of good and poor readers in pointed Hebrew - a highly regular orthography. Four groups of children (three groups in Grades 4 to 6, and one group in Grade 2) were included in this study; poor readers with large discrepancies between IQ and reading ('dyslexics'), IQ-nondiscrepant poor readers (non-dyslexic or 'garden-variety' poor readers), chronological-age matched normal readers, and a group of younger normal readers matched to the older garden-variety group on both reading and mental age. It was hypothesized that primary deficits in phonological recoding (decoding) would impair the identification of novel target words (fictitious names of fruits/towns/stars/coins, etc.) appearing in text, which, in turn, would lead to deficient orthographic memory for target spellings. Alternative predictions were derived with regard to the degree of orthographic deficiency. According to the 'compensatory processing' hypothesis, orthographic learning was expected to be relatively less impaired among disabled readers compared to normal readers. The alternative 'dissociation' hypothesis, on the other hand, predicts that disabled readers' orthographic learning would be significantly more impaired than that of normal readers. Neither hypothesis was supported. Impaired orthographic learning, commensurate with levels of target decoding success, was evident in the post-test spelling and orthographic choices of both groups of poor readers. Indeed, a close link was observed between levels of target word decoding and the acquisition of orthographic information among all three older groups of children. No qualitative differences between dyslexics and garden-variety poor readers emerged in patterns of self-teaching. While the data from the three older groups supported a model of developmental delay rather than deviance, findings from the younger reading-age/mental-age controls revealed startling qualitative divergence in orthographic learning. No statistically reliable evidence was obtained for orthographic learning in these younger beginning readers who displayed an essentially 'surface' pattern of non-lexical reading. A hybrid 'orthographic sensitivity' hypothesis was proposed to account for these data, according to which an initially surface-style of word reading engendered by a highly regular orthography gives way to a highly specialized print-specific (orthographic) processing advantage that develops in the course of the second school year as an outgrowth of a critical volume of print experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-800
Number of pages32
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Nov 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Ministry of Education, Office of the Chief Scientist.


  • IQ-discrepancy
  • Orthographic learning
  • Phonological recoding
  • Reading development
  • Reading disabilities
  • Self-teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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