Family-Based Risk Factors
In many circumstances, early identification of children who will have reading difficulties might proceed better by considering target groups rather than by assessing individuals.
Demographic data suggest that a majority of reading problems tend to occur in children from poor families with little education, although they may of course occur in families that are neither poor nor undereducated.
Also, being a member of a family in which reading difficulties have occurred before may also constitute a risk, whether for biological or environmental reasons. We review here a number of factors identifiable at the level of the family to assess their value in identifying children who should receive prevention and intervention activities.
Analysis of family-based risk factors
Parents' reading disabilities predict a higher than normal rate of reading disabilities in their children (31 to 62 percent versus 5 to 10 percent). Although parental reading disabilities are not completely predictive of their children's reading disabilities, the substantially greater risk at least warrants very close monitoring of their children's progress in early language and literacy development.
Lack of English proficiency for a Hispanic child is a strong indication that he or she is at risk for reading difficulty; however, linguistic differences appear to be less responsible than other co-occurring group risk factors, particularly school quality. In a similar manner, the occurrence of family use of nonstandard dialect and individual family SES covary considerably with factors such as school quality, which is discussed in the next major section of this chapter.
The quantity of verbal interaction in families constitutes a risk factor primarily in that it relates closely to child vocabulary scores. Findings related to home literacy environments are mixed. Many of the large-scale studies (Walberg and Tsai, 1984; White, 1982) of the correlations between home environment and school achievement have focused primarily on samples of children in elementary school (or older).
Because the focus of this report is on the prevention of reading difficulties in young children, it is especially important to consider the different roles that home environment may play at different ages. In particular, the opportunities provided in the home for literacy acquisition during the preschool years may contribute primarily to the child's acquisition of attitudes toward literacy, of knowledge about the purpose and mechanics of reading, and of skills (such as vocabulary growth and letter knowledge) that may facilitate learning when school instruction begins.
Once the child has begun to attend school and has started to learn to read, the contributions of home and parents may be somewhat different; assistance with homework, listening to the child's efforts at reading aloud, the availability of resources such as a dictionary and an encyclopedia, and so forth may be particularly important for fostering high achievement in school.
Click the "References" link above to hide these references.
Alexander, K., and D. Entwisle. (1996). Schools and children at risk. pp. 67-88 in Family-School Links: How Do They Affect Educational Outcomes?, A. Booth and J. Dunn, eds. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Alwin, D.F., and A. Thornton. (1984). Family origins and the schooling process: Early versus late influence of parental characteristics. American Sociological Review 49:784-802.
August, D., and K. Hakuta, eds. (1997). Improving Schooling for Language-Minority Children: A Research Agenda. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Bryk, A.S., and S.W. Raudenbush. (1987). Application of hierarchical linear models to assessing change. Psychological Bulletin 101(1):147-158.
Bus, A.G., M.H. van IJzendoorn, and A.D. Pellegrini. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research 65(1):1-21.
DeBaryshe, B.D. (1993). Joint picture-book reading correlates of early oral language skill. Journal of Child Language 20(2):455-461.
DeBaryshe, B.D., M.B. Caulfield, J.P. Witty, J. Sidden, H.E. Holt, and C.E. Reich. (1991). The Ecology of Young Children's Home Reading Environments. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, April 18-21, 1991, Seattle.
Elbro, C., I. Borstrom, and D.K. Petersen. (1996). Predicting Dyslexia from Kindergarten: The Importance of Distinctness of Phonological Representations of Lexical Items. Unpublished paper.
Entwisle, D.R., and N.M. Astone. (1994). Some practical guidelines for measuring youth's race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Child Development 65(6):1521-1540.
Estrada, P., W.F. Arsenio, R.D. Hess, and S.D. Holloway. (1987). Affective quality of the mother-child relationship: Longitudinal consequences for children's school-relevant cognitive functioning. Developmental Psychology 23(2): 210-215.
Finucci, J.M., L. Gottfredson, and B. Childs. (1985). A follow-up study of dyslexic boys. Annals of Dyslexia 35:117-136.
Finucci, J.M., J.T. Guthrie, A.L. Childs, H. Abbey, and B. Childs. (1976). The genetics of specific reading disability. Annals of Human Genetics 40:1-23.
Fowler, M.G., and A.W. Cross. (1986). Preschool risk factors as predictors of early school performance. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 7(4):237-241.
Galton, F. (1874). English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture. London: MacMillan.
Gilger, J.W., B.F. Pennington, and J.C. DeFries. (1991). Risk for reading disability as a function of family history in three family studies. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 3:205-217.
Hallgren, B. (1950). Specific dyslexia: A clinical and genetic study. Acta Psychiatr Neuro Scan 65(Suppl): 179-189.
Hart, B., and T.R. Risley. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Hess, R.D., and S. Holloway. (1984). Family and school as educational institutions. Pp. 179-222 in Review of Child Development Research, 7: The Family, R.D. Parke, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Horn, W.F., and J.P. O'Donnell. (1984). Early identification of learning disabilities: A comparison of two methods. Journal of Educational Psychology 76(6):1106-1118.
Labov, W. (1966). Some sources of reading problems. Pp. 140-167 in New Directions in Elementary English, A. Frazier, ed. Champaign, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Mason, J. (1980). When do children begin to read: An exploration of four year old children's letter and word reading competencies. Reading Research Quarterly 15:203-227.
Mason, J., and D. Dunning. (1980). Toward a Model Relating Home Literacy with Beginning Reading. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.
Pungello, E.P., J.B. Kupersmidt, and M.R. Burchinal. (1996). Environmental risk factors and children's achievement from middle childhood to early adolescence. Developmental Psychology 32(4):755-767.
Richman, N., J. Stevenson, and P.J. Graham. (1982). Pre-school to school: A behavioural study. Behavioural Development: A Series of Monographs. London: Hospital for Sick Children.
Rowe, K.J. (1991). The influence of reading activity at home on students' attitudes towards reading, classroom attentiveness and reading achievement: An application of structural equation modelling. British Journal of Educational Psychology 61(1):.
Scarborough, H.S. (1989). Prediction of reading disability from familial and individual differences. Journal of Educational Psychology 81(1):101-108.
Scarborough, H.S. (1990). Very early language deficits in dyslexic children. Child Development 61:1728-1743.
Scarborough, H.S. (1991). Early syntactic development of dyslexic children. Annals of Dyslexia 41:207-220.
Scarborough, H.S. (1998). Early identification of children at risk for reading disabilities: Phonological awareness and some other promising predictors. Pp. 77-121 in Specific Reading Disability: A View of the Spectrum, B.K. Shapiro, P.J. Accardo, and A.J. Capute, eds. Timonium, MD: York Press.
Scarborough, H.S., and W. Dobrich. (1994). On the efficacy of reading to preschoolers. Developmental Review 14:245-302.
Scarborough, H.S., W. Dobrich, and M. Hager. (1991). Preschool literacy experience and later reading achievement. Journal of Learning Disabilities 24(8):508-511.
Share, D.L., A.F. Jorm, R. Maclean, and R. Matthews. (1984). Sources of individual differences in reading acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology 76(6):1309-1324.
Smitherman, G. (1977). Black English and the Education of Black Children and Youth. Proceedings of the National Invitational Symposium on the KING Decision. Detroit: Center for Black Studies, Wayne State University.
Thomas, B. (1984). Early toy preferences of four-year-old readers and nonreaders. Child Development 55:424-430.
Vogler, G.P., J.C. DeFries, and S.N. Decker. (1985). Family history as an indicator of risk for reading disability. Journal of Learning Disabilities 18:419-421.
Walberg, H.J., and S. Tsai. (1984). Reading achievement and diminishing returns to time. Journal of Educational Psychology 76(3):442-451.
Walberg, H.J., and S. Tsai. (1985). Correlates of reading achievement and attitude: A national assessment study. Journal of Educational Research 78(3):159-167.
Wells, C.G. (1985). Preschool literacy-related activities and success in school. In Literacy, Language, and Learning, D. Olson, M. Torrance, and A. Hildyard, eds. London: Cambridge University Press.
White, K.R. (1982). The relation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. Psychological Bulletin 91:461-481.
Wolfram, W. (1991). Bidialect Literacy in the United States. ERIC Clearinghouse No. FL800344.