The role of morphological awareness in Chinese children’s reading comprehension: The mediating effect of word reading fluency
2018, 50 (4):
Evidences accumulated in the past decades have documented that reading-related cognitive skills, such as phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming and morphological awareness, play an importance role on Chinese children’s language and literacy development. The characteristics of Chinese, including its relatively simple phonological system, the almost perfectly consistent one to one to one correspondences among morpheme, character, and syllable, the predominant compounding structure of words, the great number of homophones and homographs, all make morphological awareness salient for Chinese literacy development. The structure of morphological awareness varies in different language systems. The comprehensive model of Chinese morphological awareness assumes three components: compounding awareness, homophone awareness, and homograph awareness. Studies on the development of Chinese reading suggested that the morphological awareness is more important for reading comprehension than both phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming. However, the mechanism underlying this phenonenon remains less clear. This longitudinal study examined the developmental relationship between morphological awareness and reading comprehension. A two-year and four-wave cross-lagged design was used with a sample of 149 Chinese children (80 male and 69 female). We measured children’s morphological awareness from T1 to T4, word reading fluency and reading comprehension from T2 to T4. In addition, we also measured the general cognitive ability, phonological awareness, and rapid automatized naming at T1 as control measures. A longitudinal cross-lagged panel model was conducted to investigate the role of morphological awareness in the reading comprehension and whether word reading fluency would mediate the association between morphological awareness and reading comprehension, when controlling for general cognitive ability, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming at T1, and the auto-regression. The present results showed that (1) the morphological awareness (compounding awareness, homophone awareness, and homograph awareness), word reading fluency, and reading comprehension increased with time. (2) The cross-lagged paths from the morphological awareness at T1 to reading comprehension at T2 (standardized β = 0.24, p < 0.01), from the morphological awareness at T2 to the reading comprehension at T3 (standardized β = 0.25, p < 0.01), from the morphological awareness at T3 to the reading comprehension at T4 (standardized β = 0.26, p < 0.01), were significant, even after controlling for the general cognitive ability, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming at T1, and the auto-regressive effect of reading comprehension. (3) The morphological awareness at T1 made significant indirect contributions to the reading comprehension at T3 via word reading at T2 (standardized β = 0.16, 95% CI [0.04, 0.29]) in addition to a significant direct contribution (β = 0.22, p < 0.05) after controlling the auto-regressive effect of reading comprehension and the reading-related skills among Chinese children. The results demonstrated the important role of morphological awareness in reading comprehension and the mechanism of the relationship between morphological awareness and reading comprehension among Chinese young children. Specifically, there is a positive longitudinal effect of morphological awareness on reading comprehension over and above continuity. In addition, it revealed significant indirect effects of morphological awareness on the reading comprehension via the word reading fluency. According to Automatic Theory in reading, most cognitive resources are spent on higher-level skills, such as drawing inferences and comprehension, if the processing of sub-skills became automatic. Possibly, children’s morphological awareness facilitates the accurate retrieval and integration of word meaning, and thereby influencs the reading comprehension. The currrent findings extend our understanding of the relationship between morphological awareness and reading comprehension.
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