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New doubts on the importance of the logographic stage

The objective of this study was to evaluate reading strategies used by French children. A group of prereaders (N=37) was followed from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of the first grade. In kindergarten, they were non-readers. They were presented with a series of word to picture matching tasks twice in kindergarten and twice in first grade. The aim of the observation was to evaluate the utilization of logographic strategies which are characterized by a large reliance on the global form of the word (its length, see study 1), by the non-sequentiality of processing (study 2) and by the use of salient visual -- and not phonological -- cues (study 3). In these three studies we took into account correct responses and justifications. Relations between metaphonological abilities, letter knowledge and prereading strategies were also assessed (studies 4 and 5). Our data showed that first graders did not use logographic strategies; their results were characterized by a great amount of correct responses with pertinent justifications, by the use of sequential processing and by sensitivity to phonic characteristics of items. For kindergarteners, we could not actually observe trace of logographic strategies besides the fact that they 'read' rather the environment (the picture) than the word itself as indicated by the importance of semantic justifications (for example, acceptation of 'bicyclette' justified by 'it is written vélo'). Moreover, their performance did not improve between the two kindergarten sessions. Nevertheless, there was a change between these sessions in the use of letter justification. But these justifications were already prevalent as of the first session and were only produced by some children, those having better letter knowledge and better metaphonological levels. Results indicated that those children used prereading strategies that relied on partial alphabetic cues. Yet it seems difficult to assert that the other children would only relied on visual strategies since their performance was sensitive to the phonological properties of items. These results lead us to question the generality of some aspects of reading developmental models resulting from research bearing only on English-speaking subjects.



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