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Developmental Studies of Reading and Visual Perception in School Age Children
Last Update
24.09.2014

MSc. Evita Kassaliete (Department of Optometry and Optical Science UL)

Reading is a comprehensive ability to understand, use and reflect written language forms. [1]. Reading process develops with age [2] and can be affected not only by the neurobiological, cognitive and psycho-social factors, but also by such factors as the educational system, complexity of phonetics [3]. According to results of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) studies of 15 -year-old Latvian school age children, reading skills are reduced in 17%. This amount is similar to the average result of English speaking countries. However, Latvian is more transparent then English. This indicates that the Latvian children's reading skills are not satisfactory [4].

Reading difficulties are often associated with the phonological awareness, but important is also visual attention, visual perception, coordination of eye movements and efficiency of visual function. If any of the processes that help to analyze and capture the text are disrupted, the reading is affected [5].

Latvian school-age children's vision care based solely on the distance visual acuity evaluation in schools and parental responsibility for visual inspections [6]. Assessment of near point vision function is not performed. However, visual perception at small distances affects the efficiency of the reading [8].

Challenges: What are the best methods of assessment of near point visual perception and reading fluency in school - age children? How oft visual perception disorders are correlated with a reading difficulty? What tests can be used for reliable control of perceptual problems affecting reading?

Purpose: To demonstrate the correlation between school-age children near point visual perception and reading speed problems.

Method: Epidemiological study of school-age children (n = 11000) vision linked with the assessment of reading fluency and detection of coherent motion perception threshold.

Results: It is proven that the development trajectory of reading exhibit two stages: the rapid development up to 12, and saturation region starting from 13 years of age. The maximal amount of captured information per unit of time, is limited by cognitive and motor processes.

The stage of reading rapid development is limited by the capacity of word and meaningless word naming - number of grapheme per second. It is shown that the naming of a word is by 27% more efficient than meaningless word. The model of reading rate (grapheme per second) is acquired showing a relative impact of different parameters:

TSLR = 0:06 * 1:26 * a + b + c-2.84 * 0.0048 * J*(a * b * c) -0.18; (R2 = 0.77), with a - recognition of word (grapheme/s); b – DEM (V) score (grapheme/s); DEM (H) score (grapheme/s); J - parameter of units of measurement correction.

The coherent motion perception thresholds of 2,027 students show a large data scattering. There is a similar threshold linear decrease in all age groups from 7 till 18 - each year by 1%. Reading fluency after the age of 13 is steadily increasing by 3% per year. In case of 16% of students reading with reduced rate the coherent motion perception thresholds are enlarged in comparison with median value. We have confirmed that coherent motion perception thresholds are significantly higher for high speed dot velocities (8 ° / s). Comparison of motion perception thresholds of poor readers with the median values demonstrates higher values for the first group of students.

It is proven that poor reading fluency in 7% of cases is determined by the inadequate efficiency of visual functions. The most important visual functions for fluent reading are: a near point visual acuity, response time to accommodation stimulus of -2,0D, response time of convergence to 8ΔBIE prism stimulus and elevated thresholds of stereo vision.

1. Martin, M. O., Mullis, I. V., & Kennedy, A. M. (2007). PIRLS 2006 technical report. Boston College. Boston: Chestnut Hill, MA:TIMSS&PIRLS International Study Center,.

2.Carver, R. P. (1990). Reading rate:A review of research and theory. SanDiego, CA: Academic Pres.

3. McCandliss, B. D., Cohen, L., & Dehaene, S. (2003). The visual word form area: Expertise for reading in the fusiform gyrus. Trends in cognitive sciences, 7(7), 293-299.

4. PISA. (2012). Council conclusions on reference levels of European average performance in education and training. Ielādēts 2014. gada 20. September no http:nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/pisa2012highlights_5_1.asp: http:nces.ed.gov

5. Nicolson, R I; Fawcett, A J. (1990). Automaticity: A new framework for dyslexia research? Cognition, 35(2), 159-182.

6. Latvijas Republikas likumdošana - MK noteikumi Nr.1046, 5. pielikums, jaunā redakcija 01.10.2009

7. Lin Luke L., et al., Epidemiologic Study of Ocular Refraction among Schoolchildren in Taiwan, Optometry and Vision Science, 1999, Vol. 76, N5, pp. 326-333.