Likely to be worthwhile: Open lecture on Monday 5 March at 1pm

Monday, 5 March 2012 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.. Archway3, University of Otago


Dr Sebastian Suggate, Department of Psychology,

Title: The complicated relationship between early reading and language: Flirtation and then marriage?

Abstract: Countless empirical studies indicate that language development lays one of the key foundations for later reading and language proficiency. Despite there being surprisingly few studies, there is strong intuitive appeal to the reverse notion, namely, that being an early reader will meaningfully benefit language development. In this talk I present findings from three of our studies. In the first, we cross-sectionally investigated the narrative language and pre-reading skill development of 5 and 6 year-old children attending primary schools differing vastly in the degree to which they teach early reading skill. The second Study of Early Language and Literacy (StELLA) extends the first by: (a) using three international cohorts, (b) sampling a broader range of language skills, and (c) tracking reading and language development over 12 months. In the third Vocabulary Acquisition Study (VASt), we adopted an experimental approach to more precisely manipulate reading and language experiences and their effects on vocabulary acquisition. Specifically, we compared 7- and 9-year old children’s vocabulary acquisition from stories that were read to them, were told to them, or that they read independently.

Across these studies, we found little evidence supporting the idea that early reading improves language development, phonemic awareness aside. Theoretical implications for our understanding of reading based influences on language development are offered.

Bio: Dr Suggate received his doctorate in psychology from the University of Otago in 2009 after having earlier graduated with a BA(Hons), also from Otago. In 2009 he was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the Alexander-von-Humboldt foundation, hosted by Professor Wolfgang Schneider from the University of Würzburg in Germany. Since 2011 he has been working as an assistant professor at the University of Regensburg and his research interests focus on the role of early educational experiences on the development of reading and language.