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Many studies have confirmed that children with literacy learning problems very frequently exhibit poorly developed phonological skills (Adams et al. 1998; Castle 1999; Tunmer & Chapman 1999; Wolf et al. 1994). Children with these phonological problems experience great difficulty in acquiring and applying sound–symbol information to help them identify words. This problem, in turn, causes difficulty in building a functional sight vocabulary (Gunning 2001). The most severe forms of reading disability (dyslexia) are often considered to be due almost entirely to a serious weakness in phonological processing (Siegel 1998; Torgesen, Wagner & Rashotte 1997).

Critical level At the critical level the reader assesses the good sense of what he or she is reading, its clarity, accuracy and any apparent exaggeration or bias. qxd 11/7/07 9:48 AM Page 22 when Miss Chow’s landlord offers her a different apartment on the 18th floor and says it is the best apartment, with the best view of the harbour, the reader knows he could be exaggerating. Critical and inferential reading together probably make the reader feel that moving up to the 18th floor may not suit Miss Chow and it is not a good solution.

There are, however, different viewpoints emerging now on the possible value of vocabularycontrolled reading books. Both Rubin (2000) and Pressley (1998) say that books with a high proportion of decodable words can be useful at a particular stage of a child’s reading development. Easy decoding of text in the early stages of learning to read facilitates the automation of the decoding process and builds the reader’s confidence in the decoding strategy.

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