Tracking the Unique Effects of Print Exposure in Children: Associations With Vocabulary, General Knowledge, and Spelling

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DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.83.2.264
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Abstract
This study assessed the construct validity of a recently introduced measure of children's exposure to print, the Title Recognition Test (TRT). In samples of 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade children, the TRT demonstrated significant correlations with spelling, vocabulary, verbal fluency, word knowledge, and general information. Most important, it accounted for variance in these criterion variables when differences in both general ability and phonological coding ability were controlled. Although correlational, the latter result suggests that print exposure is an independent contributor to the development of verbal abilities. Studies of the cognitive consequences of differing amounts of print exposure could be facilitated by the use of this easily administered indicator. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Journal
of
Educational Psychology
1991,
Vol. 83, No, 2,
264-274Copyright
1991 by ihe
American Psychological Association,
Inc.
OO22-O663/91/S3.OO
Tracking
the
Unique Effects
of
Print Exposure
in
Children:
Associations With Vocabulary, General Knowledge,
and
Spelling
Anne E. Cunningham
Graduate School
of
Education
University
of
California, Berkeley
Keith E. Stanovich
Oakland University
This study assessed the construct validity of a recently introduced measure of children's exposure
to print,
the
Title Recognition Test (TRT).
In
samples of fourth-, fifth-,
and
sixth-grade children,
the
TRT
demonstrated significant correlations with spelling, vocabulary, verbal fluency, word
knowledge,
and
general information. Most important,
it
accounted
for
variance
in
these criterion
variables
when differences in both general ability
and
phonological coding ability
were
controlled.
Although correlational, the latter result suggests that print exposure
is
an independent contributor
to the development of verbal abilities. Studies of the cognitive consequences of differing amounts
of print exposure could
be
facilitated
by the
use of this easily administered indicator.
In recent years, scholars from
a
wide variety
of
social
sciences
and
humanities disciplines have attempted
to
specify
the effects that literacy
has on
cognitive functioning (e.g.,
Botstein,
1990;
Farrell,
1977;
Freedman
&
Calfee,
1984;
Goody, 1977,1987; Greenfield, 1972;Havelock,
1980;
Olson,
1977,
1986;
Ong, 1982; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1985; Stock,
1983).
This scholarly interest
has
coincided
in an
interesting
way with
an
important educational trend
in the
language arts:
the recent push
to
immerse children
in
real literature from
their earliest encounters with print (Manning
&
Manning,
1989;
Strickland
&
Morrow,
1989;
Teale
&
Sulzby,
1986;
Temple, Nathan, Burns,
&
Temple,
1988) and to
develop
positive reading habits among children (Trelease, 1989).
The
recent emphasis
on
engaging children
in the
world
of
literate
culture
and
developing positive reading habits
has
precursors
in earlier educational efforts (Huck, 1966; Sutherland
& Ar-
buthnot, 1986),
but its
impact
has
never been
so
great.
The
educational community
is in the
middle of a perhaps unprec-
edented campaign
to
increase children's experience with
lit-
erature
and to
increase their exposure
to
print.
The premises behind this trend
(e.g.,
that reading
is
"good")
are still, however,
in
need of empirical investigation, because,
as some have argued
(e.g.,
Smith, 1989), we may
be in
danger
of overselling literacy. Researchers need
to
document
the
specific behavioral outcomes that
are
associated with
the
exercise
of
literacy. Arguments that educators
may be
over-
selling, when aimed
at
current campaigns
to
foster early
reading habits, strike home because there
is a
precedent
for
overselling literacy. That precedent
resides
in the international
literacy campaigns conducted
in
nonindustrialized countries
during
the
last three decades. There
was, in
early writings,
a
tendency
to
attribute every positive outcome that
was
histor-
We wish
to
thank Patti Whang
and
Robin Henke
for
their assist-
ance in data collection. Kathleen Howard, principal,
and
the children
of Loma Vista Elementary School, Vallejo, California,
are
thanked
for their participation.
Correspondence concerning this article should
be
addressed
to
Keith
E.
Stanovich,
who is now at the
Ontario Institute
for
Studies
in Education, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5S
IV6.
ically correlated with
the
rise
of
literacy—economic develop-
ment
for
example—to
the
effects
of
literacy
itself.
However,
the potential
for
spurious correlation
in
the domain of literacy
is quite high. Simply
put,
literacy levels
are
correlated with
too many other good things. Thus,
it was a
mistake
to
automatically attribute everything that
was
historically
cor-
related with
the
rise
of
literacy
to the
effects
of
literacy itself
(Fuller, Edwards,
&
Gorman, 1987;
Gee,
1988;
Graff, 1986;
Wagner, 1987).
An analogous problem confronts attempts
to
assess
the
specific effects
of the
exercise
of
literacy
on
cognitive func-
tioning
at the
level
of the
individual rather than society.
Educators must
be
careful
not to
oversell literacy
by
attrib-
uting exposure
to
print
as a
cause
of
everything with which
it
is positively correlated. We have thus embarked
on a
research
program designed
to
empirically isolate
the
unique cognitive
effects of exposure
to
print (Cunningham & Stanovich,
1990;
Stanovich & West, 1989).
Methodologies
for
Assessing Print Exposure
Our method
of
assessing
the
cognitive consequences
of
literacy exploits
the
fact that even within
a
generally literate
culture there are tremendous variations in degrees of exposure
to print. That
is, not
only
is
there wide variation
in
reading
and writing skills conceived
as
abilities (Perfetti, 1985),
but
there are enormous differences
in
the degree
to
which individ-
uals exercise their abilities (Anderson, Wilson,
&
Fielding,
1988;
Greaney,
1980;
Greaney
&
Hegarty,
1987;
Sharon,
1973-1974). Indeed, even among
a
group
of
individuals
who
have
the
same level
of
reading ability, there
are
surprisingly
large differences
in
their engagement in print-related activities
(Stanovich
&
West, 1989).
It is
thus possible
to
study
the
correlates
of
this natural variation
in
print exposure.
The
strategy of looking at degrees of print exposure within
a
literate
society obviously precludes
the
highly diagnostic
and
discrete
comparisons
of
literate versus illiterate individuals that have
dominated work
in
cultural anthropology (Luria,
1976;
Scrib-
ner
&
Cole, 1981). However,
our
methodology has the advan-
tage of being
a
research strategy
of far
wider applicability.
264
EFFECTS OF PRINT EXPOSURE IN CHILDREN265
In our methodology, we attempt to correlate differential
engagement in reading activities with various cognitive out-
comes that have been associated with the acquisition of liter-
acy (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990; Stanovich & West,
1989).
However, such a logic, if not supplemented with ad-
ditional methodological controls, is subject to the same prob-
lem that has plagued historical investigations of literacy's
effects: spurious correlation. That is, degree of print exposure
is correlated with various reading skills, such as word decod-
ing, and with cognitive abilities generally. Simply, and ob-
viously, individuals with superior reading skills read more.
This correlation
is
problematic, because it
raises
the possibility
that an association between amount of print exposure and
any criterion ability, skill, or knowledge base might arise not
because of the unique effects of print exposure but because of
individual differences in general ability or in specific reading
subskills, such as decoding.
Consider vocabulary as an example. The counterargument
to the claim that print exposure is a major mechanism deter-
mining vocabulary growth (Hayes, 1988; Nagy & Anderson,
1984;
Stanovich, 1986) is that superior decoding ability leads
to more print exposure and that decoding abilities are them-
selves related to vocabulary development because better de-
coding insures an accurate verbal context for inducing the
meanings of unknown words. Thus, according to this argu-
ment, vocabulary and print exposure are spuriously related
by their connection with decoding ability: Good decoders
read a lot and have the best context available for inferring
new words. Decoding ability could also in part reflect the
efficiency of the phonological short-term memory, which
Gathercole and Baddeley (1989) have argued is critical to
early oral vocabulary acquisition. Finally, vocabulary and
print exposure could be spuriously linked through general
cognitive abilities that are associated with both print exposure
and the ability to induce meaning from context (Sternberg,
1985).
We have used a regression logic to deal with this problem.
In the analyses to be reported, we first statistically control for
the effects of general ability and decoding skill before exam-
ining the relationship between print exposure and criterion
variables. This procedure of reducing possible spurious rela-
tionships by first partialing out relevant subskills and abilities
and then looking for residual effects of print exposure was
used in our earlier investigations of subword processes in
reading. For example, in previous work
we
have demonstrated
that independent of decoding ability, variation in print ex-
posure among adults predicts spelling ability and orthographic
knowledge (Stanovich
&
West, 1989). Similarly, in a previous
study of children's performance (Cunningham & Stanovich,
1990),
we found that after partialing out IQ, memory ability,
and phonological processing abilities, print exposure ac-
counted for additional variance in orthographic knowledge
and word recognition. The logic of our analytic strategy has
been quite conservative because we have partialed out vari-
ance in abilities that were likely to be developed by print
exposure itself (Stanovich, 1986). Yet even after print expo-
sure was robbed of some of its rightful variance, it remained
a unique predictor (Stanovich & West, 1989).
In the present investigation, we extend these analyses be-
yond subword-level cognitive processes. Here, we examine
whether
a
variety of declarative knowledge bases can be linked
to variation in children's amount of print exposure after the
effects of general ability and decoding skill have been par-
tialed. Criterion variables in the investigation are measures of
verbal
fluency,
word knowledge, receptive vocabulary, general
knowledge, and spelling.
There are, of course, numerous difficulties encountered
when attempting to measure print exposure. An important
breakthrough in the study of out-of-school print exposure
differences is the diary method used by Greaney (1980; Gre-
aney & Hegarty, 1987) and Anderson et al. (1988). These
studies, employing daily activity records
filled
out by children,
attempted not only to measure relative differences in print
exposure among children but also to estimate the absolute
amount of time spent on literacy activities.
The measurement of absolute amounts of reading activity
is a very difficult problem in general, and the diary technique
requires extensive cooperation from teachers and students in
order to carry out the difficult time-estimation task with any
reliability. Other techniques are available if one wants only
an index of relative differences in exposure to print, that is, if
one gives up the quest for estimates of the absolute amount
of time spent
reading.
Standard questionnaire techniques have
been used with both children and adults to assess exposure to
print outside of the classroom (Ennis, 1965; Nell, 1988;
Sharon, 1973-1974; Stanovich & West, 1989; Walberg &
Tsai, 1984), but these are encumbered with a number of
problems. Few have shown even moderate reliabilities, and
all are probably plagued with social desirability confounds:
Responses are distorted because of tendencies toward report-
ing socially desirable behaviors (Furnham, 1986; Paulhus,
1984),
in this case, to report more reading than actually takes
place (Ennis, 1965; Sharon, 1973-1974).
Mindful of these problems, Stanovich and West (1989)
developed two measures of relative print exposure that dis-
played adequate reliability and that could not be contami-
nated by the tendency to give socially desirable responses. In
the Author Recognition Test (ART) and the Magazine Rec-
ognition Test (MRT), actual target items (real authors and
real magazines) were embedded among foils (names that were
not authors or magazine titles, respectively). The subject
simply scans the list and checks those names known to be
authors on the ART and those names known to be magazines
on the MRT. The measures thus have a signal-detection logic.
The number of correct items checked can be corrected for
differential response biases, which are revealed by the check-
ing of foils. Although checklist procedures have been used
before to assess print exposure (Chomsky,
1972;
Huck, 1966),
they have not been employed in the context of a method that
uses foils to control for differential response criteria.
There are several advantages to this checklist method. First,
it is immune to the social desirability effects that so contam-
inate responses to subjective self-estimates of socially valued
activities such as reading. Guessing is not an advantageous
strategy, because it is easily detected and corrected for by an
examination of the number of foils checked. Further, the
cognitive demands of the task are quite low. The task does
not necessitate complex frequency judgments that would dis-
advantage those who read but lack other cognitive skills. All
of these advantages were empirically demonstrated in the
266ANNE E. CUNNINGHAM AND KEITH E. STANOVICH
investigation of Stanovich and West (1989), in which the
recognition tests displayed correlations with reading ability
that were higher than those displayed by the traditional ques-
tionnaires administered in previous research.
Cunningham and Stanovich (1990) demonstrated the util-
ity of an analogous measure for children, the Title Recogni-
tion Test (TRT). The measure has the same signal-detection
logic
as
the adult ART and MRT but employs children's book
titles rather than authors as items. The children's measure
shares the same advantages of low cognitive load, freedom
from subjective judgments, and objective assessment of re-
sponse bias. Thus, the TRT was employed in the present
study because it circumvents most of the problems inherent
in using questionnaire measures of children's print exposure,
yet the logistics of
its
administration are considerably simpler
than those of
the
diary technique.
Method
Subjects
The subjects were 34 fourth-grade children (16 boys and 18 girls),
33 fifth-grade children (16 boys and 17 girls), and 67 sixth-grade
children (30 boys and 37 girls) recruited from a lower-middle-class
school in the San Francisco Bay area. The mean age of the fourth-
grade children was 10 years, 2 months {SD = 7.4 months); the mean
age of the fifth-grade children was 11 years, 3 months (SD - 6.0
months); and the mean age of the sixth-grade children was 12 years,
2 months (SD « 6.I months). The children were tested during the
May-July period of
a
year-round school curriculum.
Measures
Raven's
matrices.
Subjects completed the Raven Standard Pro-
gressive Matrices (Raven, Court, & Raven, 1977), a task tapping
nonverbal problem-solving
skills
and commonly viewed as a measure
of nonverbal intelligence. The subject is required to solve problems
presented in abstract figures and
designs.
The test consists of
a
booklet
containing pictures of a pattern with a section missing and eight
options to choose from in replacing the missing portion of the pattern.
The test was administered to each class as a group. Two adults
administered the test, employing the standard test directions. The
children were given 45 min to complete the test, and all were able to
finish within the allotted
time.
The split-half reliability of this measure
(Spearman-Brown corrected) was .88. Raw scores were used in the
analyses that follow.
Phonological coding
task.
This task was adapted from the work
of Olson, Kliegl, Davidson, and Foltz (1985), and the stimuli were
taken from Table 2 of their chapter. The children saw a list of 60
nonword strings arranged in three rows of 20 items each. Half of
these stimuli were pseudowords that sounded like words when pro-
nounced (e.g., kake.ferst, bote,
braive),
and half of the stimuli were
nonwords that did not sound
like
words when pronounced
(e.g.,
dake,
filst,
boaf,
broave).
The pseudohomophones and pure nonword foils
were randomly mixed in the
list.
The children were instructed to look
at the list of letter strings and put a check mark next to those strings
that sounded like a word when they were spoken out loud and to
leave blank the letter strings that would not sound like a real word.
Because the stimuli in the task are all nonwords, the only way to
respond correctly is to recode the stimuli phonologically. The phon-
ological coding task took approximately 5 min to complete.
Spelling
task.
Twenty words were employed in the spelling task
(sugar, thumb, cloudy, dollar, towel, science, dangerous,
succeed,
vegetable,
marriage,
disease, business,
excellence,
committee,
fudge,
island,
champion,
cupboard,
chocolate,
nothing), 14 of which were
stimuli used in the Spelling subtest of the Peabody Individual
Achievement Test (Dunn & Markwardt, 1970). The experimenter
pronounced each word, used each word in a sentence (e.g., "We use
sugar to sweeten food"), and pronounced
the
word
again.
The
children
were told that they could ask the experimenter to repeat the word if
they did not understand what was said. The children were told that
their task was to spell the word as accurately as possible, that many
of the words were difficult, and that they should make their best guess
if they did not know how to spell a word. The spelling task took
approximately 10 min to administer. Scores on the measure were
simply the number of words spelled
correctly.
The split-half reliability
of
the
spelling task (Spearman-Brown corrected) was .88.
Word
checklist.
This task employed the checklist-with-foils for-
mat that has been shown to be a reliable measure of reading vocab-
ulary in previous investigations (Anderson & Freebody,
1983;
White,
Slater,
&
Graves,
1989). The stimuli for this task were 27 words
(coin,
ankle, swamp, wrist, argument, competition, weary, antler,
snarling,
grooming,
composer,
fragment,
wedge,
compass,
gnawing,
nuisance,
bugle,
scholar,
musician,
furious,
grain,
construction, funnel,
cliff,
secretary,
shore, angle) taken from Form M of the Peabody
Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (Dunn & Dunn, 1981) and 13
pronounceable nonwords
(arrate,
disler,
hould,
falfold,
subting, re-
weal,
plabage,
dropant,
ordiful,
seblement, sheal, thimmery, wiltial)
taken from a similar recognition vocabulary measure employed by
Zimmerman, Broder, Shaughnessy, and Underwood (1977). The
words and nonwords were randomly intermixed throughout the list.
The children were told that some of the letter strings were actual
words and that others were not and that their task
was
to read through
the list of items and to put a check mark next to those that they knew
were words. The children were told not to guess but only to check
those strings that they knew to be words. The word checklist took
approximately 5 min to administer.
Verbal
fluency
task.
The children were administered four trials
in which they had to produce as many words in a given category as
they could within a 45-s time period. In the first trial the children
were told that they would have 45 s to write down as many words as
they could think of that began with the letter K. Next, the children
were told that they would have 45 s to write down as many words as
they could think of that rhymed with the word
cash.
Next the children
were told that they would have 45 s to write down as many things as
they could think of that were red. Finally, the children were told that
they would have 45 s to write down as many things as they could
think of that were round. On each trial the experimenter began the
timing by telling the children "go" and after 45 s instructed the
children to put their pencils down. The task took approximately 7
min to administer. Two fourth graders and one fifth grader did not
complete the verbal
fluency
task; therefore, n = 131 for this measure.
Accurate spelling was not required on the task.
Peabody Picture Vocabulary
Test.
Form L of the Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test—Revised (PPVT-R; Dunn & Dunn, 1981) was
group administered to the children. The stimuli consisted of 25 of
the Peabody plates ranging in number from 49 to 128. The words
were
faucet,
capsule,
trunk,
disagreement,
exhausted,
arid,
coopera-
tion,
fatigued,
mercantile,
feline,
tubular,
barricade,
tranquil,
cornea,
inflated,
adjustable,
fragile,
appliance,
peninsula,
upholstery,
arch,
contemplating,
dissecting,
transparent,
and
pedestrian.
Each child had
his or her own booklet of picture alternatives. The children were told
that they would be looking at four picture alternatives while the
experimenter said a word out loud. Their task was to choose one of
the four pictures that best described the meaning of the word the
experimenter said out loud. The experimenter said the name of
each
word
twice.
The children then wrote down the number corresponding
to one of the pictures on a separate score sheet. The task took
approximately 10 min. The split-half reliability of this measure
(Spearman-Brown corrected) was .68.
EFFECTS OF PRINT EXPOSURE IN CHILDREN267
General information. The General Information subtest of the
Peabody Individual Achievement Test was employed as a probe of
the children's general world knowledge. Eighteen items from the
subtest were group administered to the children, ranging in difficulty
from Item 19
("What
is a piece of land called that is completely
surrounded by water?") to hem 64
("What
branch of our national
government makes the laws?"). The remaining items administered
were Items 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 31, 35, 37, 38, 45, 49, 54, 55, 56, 59,
and 62. The experimenter read each question twice out loud to the
children, who were instructed to write down their best answer on the
score sheet provided. The children were told that they were going to
be asked many questions about the world in which they live, that
many of the questions would be difficult, and that they therefore
should not expect to be able to answer all of the questions. They were
told to write down their best answer even if they were not sure. The
task took 10-15 min to administer. One sixth grader did not complete
the general information task. The split-half reliability of
this
measure
(Spearman-Brown corrected) was .83.
Title Recognition
Test. The Title Recognition Test was designed
as an analog of recognition measures that had previously been used
to assess amount of exposure to print in adults (Stanovich & West,
1989).
The version of
the
TRT used in the present investigation was
similar to the children's measure used in a previous research project
on print exposure effects (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990), except
that the instrument had been improved on the basis of
the
results of
the earlier investigation. Specifically, items that demonstrated poor
psychometric properties in the previous investigation (e.g., those
demonstrating ceiling or floor effects for children of this age) were
removed and replaced by more promising candidates. The version
used in this investigation consisted of a total of 39 items: 25 actual
children's book titles and 14 foils for book names. The titles were
selected from a sample of book titles generated by groups of children
in pilot investigations. In selecting the 25 items to appear on the
TRT, an attempt was made to choose titles that were not prominent
parts of the classroom reading activities in the particular schools
participating in this investigation. Because we wanted the TRT to
probe out-of-school rather than school-directed reading, an attempt
was made to avoid authors and books that were regularly studied in
the school curriculum. Of course, versions of the TRT constructed
for other classrooms will quite necessarily differ somewhat in item
content. The foils were generated by us and randomly interspersed
among the actual book
titles.
The list of children's titles appearing on
the TRT is presented in the Appendix, along with the percentage
recognition for each item. The foil titles are listed at the bottom of
Appendix, but on the actual TRT forms they were interspersed with
the real titles.
The TRT was group administered within each classroom. The
instructions that were read to the subjects and that were printed on
their response sheets were as follows: ""Below you will see a list of
book
titles.
Some of the titles are the names of actual books and some
are not. You are to read the names and put a check mark next to the
names of those that you know are books. Do not guess, but only
check those that you know are actual books. Remember, some of the
titles are not those of popular books, so guessing can easily be
detected." On the response sheet that the subjects completed, this
measure was labeled the "Title Recognition Questionnaire" and was
referred to in this manner by the experimenter. The TRT took
approximately
5
min to administer. One sixth grader did not complete
the TRT. For each subject, the number of correct targets identified
(sample M = 12.6, SD = 4.8) was recorded as well as the number of
foils checked {sample M = 1.7, SD = 2.5). The reliability of the
number of correct items checked was .82 (Cronbach's alpha).
Scoring of Measures
The raw numbers of correct items answered on the Raven, spelling,
PPVT-R and general information tasks were employed in the anal-
yses that follow. For the verbal fluency measure, the numbers of
appropriate responses on each of the four trials were summed. For
the three tasks that involved discriminating targets from foils (the
TRT, phonological coding task, and word checklist), the performance
measure was the proportion of correct targets checked minus the
proportion of foils
checked.
This is the discrimination index from the
Two-High Threshold Model of recognition performance (Snodgrass
&
Corwin, 1988) and was used in preference to the One-High Thresh-
old Model correction for guessing sometimes employed in paradigms
of this type (e.g., Anderson
&
Freebody,
1983;
Graesser
&
Nakamura,
1982) because the latter index becomes insensitive to differential
guessing rates when target detection probability nears 1.0, as was the
case for some subjects on some of our tasks.
Procedure
Raven's matrices were administered in one session approximately
one week prior to
the
administration of the other
tasks.
The remaining
tasks were administered in one session that lasted approximately one
and a half hours. Both sessions took place either in the student's
classroom or in a special resource room. The majority of the children
received the tasks in the following
order:
general information, PPVT-
R, spelling, verbal fluency, TRT, word checklist, and phonological
coding. Because of logistical problems, a few subjects received the
TRT after the phonological coding task rather than before the word
checklist. Two experimenters always administered the tasks to the
students. One experimenter read the directions out loud to the
students, and the second experimenter walked around the room,
helping students when necessary and generally monitoring student
participation.
Results
For an initial examination of the correlates of print expo-
sure differences, performance on our recognition measure,
the TRT, was classified as high or low based on a median
split of the scores within each of the grades. The high- and
low-scoring groups from each of the grades were then col-
lapsed to form the high- and low-print-exposure
groups.
Table
1
presents a comparison of the means on the primary variables
in the study for the high-TRT and low-TRT children. Per-
formance on the TRT differentiated the subjects on each of
the variables in the study. A similar pattern was obtained in
each of the grades separately.
Table 1
Means for
Children
High and Low on the Title
Recognition
Test (TRT)
Variable
TRT
Raven
Phonological coding
Spelling
Word checklist
Verbal fluency
PPVT-R
General information
Low TRT
.246
37.5
.445
8.3
.640
15.2
16.9
10.8
High TRT
.524
40.3
.605
11.3
.807
19.1
18.5
12.4
t
11.03***
2.30*
3.18**
3.95***
4.43***
5.18***
3.17**
2.89**
Note. Raven
Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; PPVT-R =
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised, df
128 for verbal
fluency; df= 130 for TRT and general information; df= 131 for all
other tasks.
mp < .05, two-tailed.
**
p < .01, two-tailed. ***p < .001, two-
tailed.
268ANNE E. CUNNINGHAM AND KEITH E. STANOVICH
A more complete picture of all of the relationships among
the variables is provided by Table 2, where performance on
all of the tasks, in addition to the child's age in months, was
intercorrelated. The TRT displayed significant correlations
with all of the variables in the study, although the magnitude
of the correlations varied somewhat. The strongest relation-
ships were
obtained with the spelling and word checklist tasks.
Somewhat smaller correlations were obtained with the verbal
fluency, PPVT-R, and general information measures. Low,
but significant, correlations were observed with performance
on the Raven and phonological coding tasks.
The results displayed in Tables 1 and 2 indicate that per-
formance on the TRT was significantly related to measures
of
spelling,
word knowledge, verbal fluency, vocabulary, and
general
knowledge.
In the next series of analyses,
we
examined
the question of whether print exposure, as measured by the
TRT, is an independent predictor of these criterion variables.
In all of the analyses, we employed the entire sample and
partialed out age in months as the first variable. Parallel
analyses conducted for each grade separately revealed identi-
cal trends.
Table 3 presents the results of a series of hierarchical
regression analyses in which age was entered first, followed by
performance on Raven's matrices and finally TRT perform-
ance.
Thus, after partialing out age, these analyses removed
the effects of general ability (as measured by the Raven) and
examined whether TRT performance was related to the resid-
ual variance in each of the variables in the study. The results
presented in Table 3 indicate that this question is answered
in the affirmative. Table 3 presents the R, R2, R2 change, and
.Fto enter at each step in the hierarchical regression. The beta
weight of each variable in the final (simultaneous) regression
is also presented. For each of the variables in the study, TRT
predicts variance after age and Raven performance have been
partialed out, and in several cases the unique variance pre-
dicted is considerable. Additionally, in all of the analyses
except one (phonological coding), the beta weight for the TRT
in the final regression equation was larger than that for the
Raven.
Table 4 presents the results of hierarchical regression anal-
yses that provide an even more stringent test of the ability of
TRT to predict independent variance in verbal skills and
general knowledge. Here, performance on the phonological
coding task was entered subsequent to Raven performance
Table 3
Unique Print
Exposure Variance After Age and Raven
Measure Are
Partialed
Out
Dependent variable
Phonological coding
Age
Raven
TRT
Spelling
Age
Raven
TRT
Word checklist
Age
Raven
TRT
Verbal fluency
Age
Raven
TRT
PPVT-R
Age
Raven
TRT
General information
Age
Raven
TRT
R
.047
.424
.474
.179
.414
.570
.103
.457
.606
.043
.231
.471
.230
.393
.515
.224
.362
.476
R2
.002
.179
.225
.032
.172
.325
.011
.209
.368
.002
.053
.222
.053
.154
.266
.050
.131
.227
change
.002
.177**
.046**
.032*
.140**
.153**
.011
.198**
.159**
.002
.051"
.169**
.053**
.101**
.112**
.050**
.081**
.096**
Fto
enter
0.30
28.08
7.57
4.31
21.95
29.36
1.41
32.57
32.45
0.24
6.89
27.40
7.29
15.60
19.58
6.84
12.05
15.83
Final
0
-.135
.353
.233
.045
.248
.428
-.038
.317
.436
-.071
.100
.445
.115
.211
.365
.122
.187
.337
Note. Raven = Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; TRT = Title
Recognition Test; PPVT-R = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test
Revised.
*p<.05.
**p<.01.
but prior to the TRT in the regression equation. These anal-
yses thus provide an even stronger guarantee against spurious
relationships, because they rule out one of the most obvious
third variables: decoding ability. As is clear from the table,
the TRT remains a significant unique predictor of all five
criterion variables.
We conducted another set of analyses in an attempt to
determine how far the TRT's ability to account for unique
variance could be extended. In the hierarchical regression
analyses presented in Table 5, performance on the word
checklist was entered into the equation after phonological
coding performance but before the
TRT.
One way to conceive
of word checklist performance in these analyses is as a control
Table 2
Intercorrelations
Among the Major Variables
Variable1
1.
Age
2.
Raven
3.
Phonological coding
4.
Spelling
5.
Word checklist
6- Verbal fluency
7.
PPVT-R
8. General information
9. Title Recognition Test
.07
-.05
.18
.10
.04
.23
.22
.27
.42
.39
.45
.23
.32
.29
.31
.61
.55
.47
.19
.27
.31
.68
.62
.32
,41
.52
.50
.32
.43
.53
.16
.44
.46
.66
.46.43
Note. Raven = Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; PPVT-R = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-
Revised. Correlations greater than
. 17
are significant at the .05 level (two-tailed).
EFFECTS OF PRINT EXPOSURE IN CHILDREN269
Table 4
Unique Print
Exposure
Variance After
Age and Raven and
Phonological Coding
Measures
Are
Partialed
Out
Dependent variable
Spelling
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
TRT
Word checklist
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
TRT
Verbal fluency
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
TRT
PPVT-R
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
TRT
General information
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
TRT
R
.179
.414
.656
.713
.103
.457
.610
.683
.043
.231
.477
.582
.230
.393
.403
.516
.224
.362
.410
.492
R2
.032
.172
.430
.509
.011
.209
.372
.466
.002
.053
.228
.339
.053
.154
.162
.266
.050
.131
.168
.242
R2
change
.032*
.140**
.258**
.079**
.011
.198**
.163**
.094**
.002
.051**
.175**
.111**
.053**
.101**
.008
.104**
.050**
.081**
.037*
.074**
Flo
enter
4.31
21.95
58.51
20.42
1.41
32.57
33.49
22.52
0.24
6.89
28.47
21.02
7.29
15.60
1.21
18.19
6.84
12.05
5.68
12.37
Final
.110
.076
.486
.315
.005
.194
.364
.346
-.039
-.024
.370
.372
.108
.211
.011
.364
.140
.138
.140
.304
Note. Raven = Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; TRT = Title Recognition Test; PPVT-R
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised.
*p<.05.
**p<.01.
for method variance. That
is,
while the response and cognitive
requirements of the TRT are quite low, recognition memory
is still required for the items. In a previous investigation
(Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990), we attempted to ensure
that the predictive part of the task was not intertwined with
memory ability by partialing out performance on a memory
task before entering the TRT as a predictor of the criterion
variables. The word checklist provides an even more stringent
control, because its cognitive requirements are identical to
those of the TRT: The subject must recognize familiar items
in the context of unfamiliar foils. However, it is important to
understand that inclusion of the word checklist in a hierar-
chical regression before the TRT severely biases the analyses
against the latter. Print exposure is probably a major deter-
minant of word knowledge as indexed on a task like the word
checklist (see Table 4), and thus too much variance is being
partialed out from the TRT in these analyses.
Nevertheless, the results presented in Table 5 indicate that
the TRT remains a significant predictor of all four criterion
variables even after general ability (the Raven), decoding
ability (phonological coding task), and a word knowledge
measure that shares method variance with the TRT (word
checklist) have been entered into the equation. This is an
impressive result indeed when one considers that at least two
of the prior variables (phonological coding and word checklist
performance) almost surely are in relationships of reciprocal
causation with print exposure and thus are stealing some
unknown proportion of predictive variance that might more
fairly be attributed to the TRT.
The analyses displayed in Table 6 examine the robustness
of the TRT as a predictor of unique variance by substituting
spelling performance for word checklist performance as a
memory control (in this case recall, rather than recognition,
of letter strings). The TRT was a significant predictor of each
criterion variable when entered last into the equation.
It should be noted that although the TRT was a robust
predictor of unique variance in the verbal abilities examined
in the previous analyses, it does display discriminant validity.
In a hierarchical regression analysis predicting Raven matrices
performance, the TRT is not a significant predictor after age,
phonological coding, and spelling have been entered into the
equation {R2 change = .017, F to enter = 2.78, ns). Thus,
print exposure, as measured by the TRT, is more tightly
linked to verbal ability and knowledge measures than to
nonverbal measures of general ability.
Because the TRT turned out to be such a potent predictor
of word knowledge, vocabulary, and general knowledge, we
conducted a further analysis that examined the consequences
of a mismatch between general cognitive ability and print
exposure. While not losing sight of the correlational nature of
the data, we may, for example, ask whether print exposure
can compensate for modest
levels
of general cognitive abilities,
at least in a statistical sense. The comparisons presented in
Table 7 address this issue. Within each grade, the sample was
270ANNE E. CUNNINGHAM AND KEITH E. STANOVICH
Table 5
Unique Print
Exposure Variance After Age and
Raven,
Phonological
Coding,
and Word
Checklist Measures
Are
Partialed
Out
Dependent variable
Spelling
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Word checklist
TRT
Verbal fluency
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Word checklist
TRT
PPVT-R
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Word checklist
TRT
General information
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Word checklist
TRT
R
.179
.414
.656
.753
.767
.043
.231
.477
.556
.606
.230
.393
.403
.433
.517
.224
.362
.410
.482
.517
R1
.032
.172
.430
.566
.588
.002
.053
.228
.309
.367
.053
.154
.162
.187
.268
.050
.131
.168
.232
.267
R2
change
.032*
.140**
.258**
.136**
.022*
.002
.051**
.175**
.081**
.058**
.053**
.101**
.008
.025*
.081**
.050**
.081**
.037*
.064**
.035*
Fto
enter
4.31
21.95
58.51
40.18
6.60
0.24
6.89
28.47
14.73
11.32
7.29
15.60
1.21
3.94
13.96
6.84
12.05
5.68
10.62
5.93
Final
P
.106
.003
.346
.386
.179
-.033
-.056
.284
.224
.292
.108
.201
-.007
.049
.347
,137
.096
.061
.218
.227
Note. Raven = Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; TRT = Title Recognition Test; PPVT-R
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised.
*p<.OS.
**p<.0\.
classified according to a median split of performance on the
TRT and on the Raven. The resulting 2x2 matrix revealed
58 children who were discrepant: 28 children were low on the
Raven but high on the TRT (low-ability/high-print group;
scoring 34.7 and 0.476, respectively), and 30 children were
high on the Raven but low in print exposure (high-ability/
low-print group; scoring 43.8 and
0.271,
respectively). These
two groups were then compared on all of the variables in the
study. What is interesting is that the low-ability/high-print
group was not significantly worse on any other variable in the
study. Indeed, these children scored significantly higher on
the verbal fluency measure.
Table 8 displays a similar analysis pitting print exposure
against decoding ability, as measured by the phonological
coding task. Within each grade, the sample was classified
according to a median split of performance on the TRT and
on the phonological coding task. The resulting 2x2 matrix
revealed 51 children who were discrepant: 25 children were
low in decoding ability but high on the TRT (low-decoding/
high-print group; scoring
0.309
and
0.511,
respectively), and
26 children were high in decoding ability but low in print
exposure (high-decoding/low-print group; scoring
0.777
and
0.269, respectively). These two groups were then compared
on all of the variables in the study. Not surprisingly, the high-
decoding/low-print group was superior on the spelling task.
Interestingly, however, there were no significant differences
in favor of the high-decoding/low-print group on any other
task. In fact, the low-decoding/high-print group displayed
PPVT-R scores that were almost significantly superior (p <
.07,
two-tailed). Although inferences from these correlational
analysis must be tentative, the results do suggest that print
exposure can bolster certain knowledge
bases,
even in children
with low decoding or low general ability, and that low ability
need not necessarily hamper the development of vocabulary
and verbal knowledge as long as the children are exposed to
a lot of
print.
Finally, the results of these analyses also serve
to reaffirm the construct validity of the TRT as a measure of
print exposure.
Discussion
A variety of
these
analyses indicated that print exposure is
a significant unique predictor of spelling, several measures of
word and vocabulary knowledge, and general world knowl-
edge.
General ability does not account for the link between
print exposure and verbal skill, nor does general ability in
combination with phonological coding ability.
The latter is a particularly important outcome, because
there
are
numerous
ways
in which a variable
like
phonological
coding skill might mediate a relationship between print ex-
posure and a variable like vocabulary size. High levels of
decoding skill—certainly a contributor to greater print expo-
sure—might provide relatively complete verbal contexts for
the induction of word meanings during reading, or alterna-
tively, decoding skill might indirectly reflect differences in
short-term phonological storage that are related to oral vocab-
ulary learning, particularly in the preschool years (Gathercole
& Baddeley, 1989). If print exposure were only an incidental
EFFECTS OF PRINT EXPOSURE IN CHILDREN271
Table 6
Unique Print
Exposure
Variance
After Age and
Raven,
Phonological
Coding,
and
Spelling
Measures
Are
Partialed
Out
Dependent variable
Word checklist
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Spelling
TRT
Verbal fluency
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Spelling
TRT
PPVT-R
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Spelling
TRT
General information
Age
Raven
Phonological coding
Spelling
TRT
R
.103
.457
.610
.722
.745
.043
.231
.477
.629
.655
.230
.393
.403
.434
.518
.224
.362
.410
.464
.507
R2
.011
.209
.372
.522
.555
.002
.053
.228
.395
.428
.053
.154
.162
.189
.268
.050
.131
.168
.215
.257
R2
change
.011
.198**
.163**
.150**
.033**
.002
.051**
.175**
.167**
.033**
.053**
.101**
.008
.027*
.079**
.050**
.081**
.037*
.047**
.042**
Fto
enter
0.23
32.57
33.49
40.18
9.42
0.24
6.89
28.47
34.59
7.24
7.29
15.60
1.21
4.20
13.76
6.84
12.05
5.68
7.57
7.12
Final
P
-.035
.157
.159
.417
.220
-.066
-.044
.155
.436
.219
.110
.202
-.021
.067
.341
.120
.124
.054
.176
.248
Note. Raven - Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; TRT = Title Recognition Test; PPVT-R
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised.
*/?<.05.
**p<.01.
correlate of vocabulary because of its link with phonological
coding skill, then the TRT could not serve as a unique
predictor of vocabulary once phonological coding was par-
tialed out. This prediction was repeatedly falsified in our data.
The most stringent analysis (see Table 5) indicated that the
TRT was a unique predictor of performance on the PPVT-
R after not only phonological coding but also general ability
and an analogously structured recognition measure had been
partialed out. Print exposure was similarly a unique predictor
of spelling ability, verbal fluency, and general knowledge.
These analyses suggest that print exposure, although clearly
a consequence of developed reading ability, is probably a
significant contributor to the development of other aspects of
verbal intelligence. Such rich-get-richer (and their converse,
Table 7
Differences Between
Children With Low Ability but High
Print
Exposure (LA/HPE) and
Children
With High Ability
but Low
Print
Exposure (HAjLPE)
Variable
Phonological coding
Spelling
Word checklist
Verbal fluency
PPVT-R
General information
LA/HPE
(n = 28)
.518
10.0
.744
19.2
17.3
11.2
HA/LPE
(n = 30)
.560
9.4
.743
16.0
17.3
11.0
t(df-56)
-0.56
0.54
0.01
3.11"
0.03
0.22
Note. PPVT-R = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised.
a Significant difference favoring LA/HPE group.
poor-get-poorer) effects are becoming of increasing concern
to educational practitioners (Adams, 1990; Chall, 1989) and
are playing an increasingly prominent role in theories of
individual differences (Anderson et al.s 1988; Chall, Jacobs,
& Baldwin, 1990; Hayes, 1988; Hayes & Ahrens, 1988; Juel,
1988;
Nagy & Anderson, 1984; Siegel, 1989; Stanovich, 1986,
1988,
1989; van den Bos, 1989). Nevertheless, the analyses of
ability-exposure discrepancies (Tables 7 and 8) seem to indi-
cate that even the child with limited reading skills will build
vocabulary and knowledge structures through reading.
Future research will further refine the TRT as a measure of
print exposure and examine its relationship to other indexes,
including activity diaries. We may admit the drawbacks of
our measure and at the same time recognize its potential to
serve as a quick probe of individual differences in print
exposure. For example, it is clear that the TRT will not
measure absolute levels of print exposure in terms of time
spent reading or number of words read. Instead, the TRT was
designed as a measure reflecting relative individual differences
in exposure to print. Additional drawbacks are also apparent.
For example, it is clear that to get credit for a correct item on
the TRT, one need only have some familiarity with the title.
However, this seemingly problematic feature—that responses
can be based on general familiarity rather than on a more
complete reading of the book—may not be quite the drawback
it seems. Drawing attention to the possibility of responding
on the basis of a shallow familiarity serves to emphasize the
fact that the TRT is not cognitively demanding and that it
does not load on memory as much as do some other tasks in
272ANNE E. CUNNINGHAM AND KEITH E. STANOVICH
Table 8
Differences Between
Children With Low
Decoding
Ability
but High
Print
Exposure (LD/HPE) and
Children
With
High
Decoding
Ability but Low Print Exposure (HD/LPE)
Variable
Raven
Spelling
Word checklist
Verbal fluency
PPVT-R
General information
LD/HPE
(n = 25)
38.5
9.0
.739
17.0
18.1
11.6
HD/LPE
(« = 26)
41.0
11.7
.796
17.3
16.7
10.9
t (df= 49)
-1.48
-2.57"
-1.17
-0.25
1.90
0.71
Note. Raven = Raven Standard Progressive Matrices; PPVT-R
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised.
a Significant difference favoring HD/LPE group.
which children might be asked to volunteer titles or infor-
mation about plot and/or characters. Requiring this sort of
recall may cause children to fail to index books read so long
ago that they have been partially forgotten. Title recognition
appropriately allows such imperfectly recalled items to influ-
ence the obtained print exposure score.
Finally, we of course admit that some of our conclusions
represent a leap to causal inferences from correlational data,
and there may well be additional third variables that we have
not considered here. However, the third-variable problem is
endemic to all correlational research on the cognitive corre-
lates of reading; this literature continues to be dominated by
correlational rather than experimental studies. Our conserv-
ative regression strategy goes further than most investigations
to stack the deck against our favored variable. In future
investigations, we will put our conjectures about the effects
of print exposure to even more stringent tests.
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(Appendix follows on next
page)
274
ANNE
E.
CUNNINGHAM
AND
KEITH
E.
STANOVICH
Appendix
Title Recognition Test Items
ItemTitles
A Light in
the
Attic
How to Eat Fried Worms
Call
of the Wild
The
Chosen
Tales
of a
Fourth Grade
Nothing
The
Polar
Express
The
Indian
in
the
Cupboard
TheCybilWar
Homer
Price
Heidi
Freedom Train
James and the
Giant Peach
By the
Shores
of
Silver
Lake
Superfudge
Dr.
Dolittle
From the Mixed-Up
Files
of
Mrs.
Basil E.
Frankweiler
Island of the Blue
Dolphins
Ramona the
Pest
Iggie's
House
The
Great
Brain
% recognition
75.2
64.7
51.9
17.3
88.7
32.3
73.7
24.8
26.3
56.4
49.6
85.7
32.3
67.7
58.6
45.9
80.5
75.2
21.1
25.6
ItemTitles
(continued)
Misty of Chincoteague
Henry and the
Clubhouse
Dear
Mr.
Henshaw
Harriet
the Spy
The
Lion,
the
Witch and the
Wardrobe
Foils
Joanne
It's
My
Room
Hot Top
Don't
Go
Away
The Hideaway
The Missing Letter
TheRollaway
Sadie
Goes
to
Hollywood
The
Schoolhouse
He's
Your
Little
Brother!
Ethan Allen
The Lost Shoe
Skateboard
Curious
Jim
% recognition
6.0
22.6
69.9
42.9
68.4
4.5
11.3
5.3
10.5
16.5
15.8
7.5
19.5
17.3
19.5
3.0
19.5
12.0
10.5
Received July 20,
1990
Revision received September 27,
1990
Accepted September 28,
1990
  • ... By contrast, the assessments of children's skills, commonly obtained via standardized testing, was probably more valid. Alternative measures for assessing the home literacy environment, such as print exposure lists (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1991) or young children reflecting on literacy practices in their homes (Evans & Hulak, 2019), were unfortunately not used in the current set of studies. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Book giveaway programs provide free books to families with infants to encourage caregivers to begin reading to their children during infancy. This meta-analysis of 44 studies retrieved from 43 articles tests the effects of three major book giveaway programs: Bookstart (n = 11), Reach Out and Read (n = 18), and Imagination Library (n = 15). Effect sizes were aggregated within two domains—home literacy environment and literacy-related behavior and skills—before being averaged across studies. The findings corroborate the assumption that book giveaway programs promote children’s home literacy environment (d = 0.31, 95% CI [0.23, 0.38], k = 30), which subsequently results in more interest in reading and children scoring higher on measures of literacy-related skills prior to and during the early years of school (d = 0.29, 95% CI [0.23, 0.35], k = 23).
  • ... One obvious reason is that function words would tend to be ignored with the KWS. Consequently, reading activity fails to play its well-established language-teaching role (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1991;Stanovich, 1986;Stanovich & Cunningham, 1992). Exposure to speech seems to be indispensable to grasp the role of function words in sentence processing. ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Título: Estrategias de lectura de oraciones en español: similitudes y dife-rencias entre niños con dislexia y niños con sordera. Resumen: Este estudio compara las estrategias para leer oraciones utiliza-das por un grupo de escolares con dislexia (n = 107) y un grupo con sorde-ra e implante coclear (n = 61) de lengua castellana. Los resultados indican que solo los participantes con sordera adoptan la estrategia de palabras clave (EPC), que consiste en identificar algunas de las palabras de la oración con contenido semántico propio, e ignorar las palabras funcionales. Se observa además que el uso de la EPC está asociado con un déficit sintáctico. Por otra parte, cuando los dos grupos se emparejan en el nivel lector con niños con desarrollo típico en lectura (Grupo Control, n = 785), las diferencias entre los Grupos Disléxico y Control desaparecieron. Sin embargo, los ni-ños con sordera mantenían su tendencia a usar la EPC y seguían presen-tando dificultades para procesar las palabras funcionales. Estos resultados excluyen la hipótesis de que la EPC sea un procedimiento utilizado de for-ma general para compensar los déficits de lectura, pareciendo depender, más específicamente, de dificultades en la capacidad sintáctica. Palabras clave: dislexia; sordera; implante coclear; lectura; estrategia de palabras clave. Abstract: The present study compares the strategies to read sentences used by Spanish-speaking children with dyslexia (n = 107) and cochlear-implanted children with deafness (n = 61). The results show that children with deafness, but not with dyslexia, adopt the keyword strategy (KWS), which consists of identifying some content words of the sentence while ignoring the function words. Furthermore, it appeared that the KWS was associated with poor syntactic ability. Moreover, when Dyslexic and Deaf Groups were carefully matched at reading level with normally developing children (Control Group, n = 785) all of the differences between dyslexics and normally developing children disappeared. Children with hearing loss however were still slow at dealing with function words and consequently maintained their tendency to use the KWS. These results exclude the hypothesis that the KWS is a broadly used procedure to compensate for reading deficits but seems, rather, to depend on poor syntactic ability.