Visual and Linguistic Factors in Literacy Acquisition
Instructional Implications for Beginning Readings in Low-Income Countries
Improving the quality of literacy teaching may require intervening at different levels, for example, encouraging school attendance and optimizing textbook format and teaching methods. Reading is a complex task involving perceptual, motor, linguistic, phonological, and memory components, each of which has a crucial role in determining the reading rate. High poverty rates continue to have a negative impact on human resource development and education quality in Africa, further complicating the ability of most countries to reach the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Moreover, Africa and Asia are hosts to most of the world's multilingual countries, in which textbook availability in major indigenous languages is sorely lacking. Therefore, it is important to take all possible steps to maximize the effectiveness of teaching interventions. In parallel, also the quality of textbooks is a crucial factor for quality education, especially in developing countries. It is important to dispose of well-written and well-designed textbooks because the quality of textbooks can be an important predictor of student learning and can contribute to the effective use of instructional time and classroom teaching.
This review examines the evidence regarding variables influencing the acquisition of decoding and comprehension reading skills. One important caveat is in order. While the educational, psychological and neuroscience literature on reading is extensive, it largely depends upon studies on English speaking individuals. The first part of the review focuses on studies of visual psychophysics and examines the visual limitations affecting reading and its development. The second part of the review draws on the psychological and neuroscience literature to examine the role of several variables influencing reading acquisition, such as letter knowledge, teaching method, teacher's competence, orthographic consistency.