Children’s Language Development and Reading Acquisition in a Highly Transparent Orthography

Authored by: Heikki Lyytinen , Mikko Aro , Leena Holopainen , Matti Leiwo , Paula Lyytinen , Asko Tolvanen

Handbook of Orthography and Literacy

Print publication date:  September  2005
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780805846522
eBook ISBN: 9780203824719
Adobe ISBN: 9781136781353


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In this chapter we discuss the relation between early language skills and reading acquisition in the context of the Finnish language. Roughly one third of Finnish children acquire reading skills before school entry; apparently in part because of the transparent nature of the Finnish orthography and also in part because of the availability of written material in the home and children's attendance at day-care centers. The results from the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Dyslexia (JLD, Lyytinen et al., 2004) which we summarize in this article reveal that, although the process of acquiring fluent reading in Finnish can be relatively effortless, a number of children still face problems in mastering reading skill. Approximately 6% of children do not achieve accurate reading skill when 90% accuracy in reading pseudowords is used as the criterion. The reasons for such reading difficulties in Finnish children are attributed at least in part to speech processing problems which compromise language development and acquisition of reading and challenge achievements in spelling accuracy and reading fluency. Every reader of Finnish is affected by the agglutinative nature of the language which results in longer than average word length. Finally, the role of phoneme awareness in reading Finnish in comparison to less regular orthographies is examined.

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