Phonological and Cognitive Reading Related Skills as Predictors of Word Reading and Reading Comprehension among Arabic Dyslexic Children


The present study sought to identify cognitive reading-related skills (i.e. visual attention, rapid automatized naming and working memory) that might distinguish dyslexic Arabic children from skilled ones in 4th and 5th grades, and to examine the potential contribution of these factors to word reading and reading comprehension. Two experiments were conducted for this purpose. In Experiment 1, normal readers (N = 108) and dyslexics (23) were given a set of literacy tasks, visual attention, and rapid automatized naming. The results indicated that dyslexic children exhibited lower reading-related skills than controls. Visual attention and phonological processing were able to predict word reading. Experiment 2 was carried out on 36 dyslexic children compared to chronological-age controls. This experiment was designed to assess the relation between phonological awareness and working memory with word recognition and reading comprehension. Results showed significant differences between groups in literacy scores. In addition, inter-correlations indicated a strong relation between word recognition and reading comprehension on one hand and phonological awareness and verbal working memory on the other. Regression analyses showed that rapid naming, visual attention, and verbal working memory were significantly associated with literacy. The findings underscored the importance of cognitive skills in the acquisition of Arabic literacy and emphasized persistent difficulties in dyslexic children from multiple causes.

Share and Cite:

Layes, S. , Lalonde, R. , Mecheri, S. & Rebaï, M. (2015). Phonological and Cognitive Reading Related Skills as Predictors of Word Reading and Reading Comprehension among Arabic Dyslexic Children. Psychology, 6, 20-38. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.61003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Abu-Rabia, S. (1995). Learning to Read in Arabic: Reading, Syntactic, Orthographic and Working Memory Skills in Normally Achieving and Poor Arabic Readers. Reading Psychology: An International Quarterly, 16, 351-394.
[2] Abu Rabia, S. (2001). The Role of Vowels in Reading Semitic Scripts: Data from Arabic and Hebrew. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 14, 39-59.
[3] Abu-Rabia, S., & Siegel, L. S. (2002). Reading, Syntactic, Orthographic, and Working Memory Skills of Bilingual Arabic-English Speaking Canadian Children. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 31, 661-678.
[4] Abu Rabia, S., Share, D., & Mansour, M. S. (2003). Word Recognition and Basic Cognitive Processes among Reading-Disabled and Normal Readers of Arabic. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 16, 423-442.
[5] Abu-Rabia, S., & Taha, H. (2004). Reading and Spelling Error Analysis of Native Arabic Dyslexic Readers. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 17, 651-690.
[6] Abu-Rabia, S. (2007). The Role of Morphology and Short Vowelization in Reading Arabic among Normal and Dyslexic Readers in Grades 3, 6, 9, and 12. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 36, 89-106.
[7] Abu-Rabia, S., & Sammour, R. (2013). Spelling Errors’ Analysis of Regular and Dyslexic Bilingual Arabic-English Students. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 3, 58-68.
[8] Al Mannai, H. (2006). Cognitive Predictors of Early Arabic Literacy: Informing the Development of Dyslexia Assessment in Bahrain. Ph.D. Thesis, Surrey: Surrey University.
[9] Al Mannai, H., & Everatt, J. (2005). Ponological Processing Skills as Preditors of Literacy amongst Arabic Speaking Bahrini Children. Dyslexia: An International Journal of Research and Practice, 11, 269-291.
[10] Alloway, T. P., & Alloway, R. G. (2010). Investigating the Predictive Roles of Working Memory and IQ in Academic Attainment. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 106, 20-29.
[11] American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., Text Rev.). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.
[12] Ben-Dror, I., Frost, R., & Bentin, S. (1995). Orthographic Representation and Phonemic Segmentation in Skilled Readers: A Cross-Language Comparison. Psychological Science, 6, 176-181.
[13] Bosse, M.-L., Valdois, S., & Tainturier, M.-J. (2004). Cognitive Deficits Related to Developmental Dyslexia: A French and English Group Study. 6th BDA Conference, Warwich, 27-30 March 2004.
[14] Boudelaa, S., & Marslen-Wilson, W. D. (2010). Aralex: A Lexical Database for Modern Standard Arabic. Behavior Research Methods, 42, 481-487.
[15] Bowers, P. G., & Newby-Clark, E. (2002). The Role of Naming Speed within a Model of Reading Acquisition. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 15, 109-126.
[16] Breznitz, Z. (2008). The Origin of Dyslexia: The Asynchrony Phenomenon. In G. Reid, A. Fawcett, F. Manis, & L. Siegel (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Dyslexia (pp. 11-30). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
[17] Cain, K., Oakhill, J., & Bryant, P. (2004). Children’s Reading Comprehension Ability: Concurrent Prediction by Working Memory, Verbal Ability, and Component Skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 31-42.
[18] Caravolas, M., Lervag, A., Mousikou, P., Efrim, C., Litavsky, M., Onochi-Quintanilla, E. et al. (2012). Common Patterns of Prediction of Literacy Development in Different Alphabetic Orthographies. Psychological Science, 23, 678-686.
[19] Carretti, B., Borella, E., Cornoldi, C., & De Beni, R. (2009). Role of Working Memory in Explaining the Performance of Individuals with Specific Reading Comprehension Difficulties: A Meta-Analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 246-251.
[20] Cartwright, K. B. (2012). Insights from Cognitive Neuroscience: The Importance of Executive Function for Early Reading Development and Education. Early Education and Development, 23, 24-36.
[21] Casco, C., Tressoldi, P., & Dellantonio, A. (1998). Visual Selective Attention and Reading Efficiency Are Related in Children. Cortex, 34, 531-546.
[22] Chung, K. K. H., Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D. W., Tsang, S.-M., & Lee, S. H. (2011). Cognitive Skills and Literacy Performance of Chinese Adolescents with and without Dyslexia. Reading and Writing, 24, 835-859.
[23] Cutting, L. E., Materek, A., Cole, C. A. S., Levine, T. M., & Mahone, E. M. (2009). Effects of Fluency, Oral Language, and Executive Function on Reading Comprehension Performance. Annals of Dyslexia, 59, 34-54.
[24] De Beni, R., Palladino, P., Pazzaglia, F., & Cornoldi, C. (1998). Increases in Intrusion Errors and Working Memory Deficit of Poor Comprehenders. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 51, 305-320.
[25] Elbeheri, G., & Everatt, J. (2007). Literacy Ability and Phonological Processing Skills amongst Dyslexic and Non-Dyslexic Speakers of Arabic. Reading and Writing, 20, 273-294.
[26] Elbeheri, G., Everatt, J., Reid, G., & Al Mannai, H. (2006). Dyslexia Assessment in Arabic. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 6, 143-152.
[27] Elbeheri, G., Everatt, J., Mahfoudhi, A., Abu Al-Diyar, M., & Taibah, N. (2011). Orthographic Processing and Reading Comprehension among Arabic Speaking Mainstream and LD Children. Dyslexia, 17, 123-142.
[28] Facoetti, A., Paganoni, P., Turatto, M., Marzola, V., & Mascetti, G. G. (2000). Visual-Spatial Attention in Developmental Dyslexia. Cortex, 36, 109-123.
[29] Ferretti, G., Mazzotti, S., & Brizzolara, D. (2008). Visual Scanning and Reading Ability in Normal and Dyslexic Children. Behavioural Neurology, 19, 87-92.
[30] Franceschini, S., Gori, S., Ruffino, M., Pedrolli, K., & Facoetti, A. (2012). A Causal Link between Visual Spatial Attention and Reading Acquisition. Current Biology, 22, 814-819.
[31] Frost, J., Madsbjerg, S., Niedersøe, J., Olofsson, A., & Sørensen, P. M. (2005). Semantic and Phonological Skills in Predicting Reading Development: From 3-16 Years of Age. Dyslexia, 11, 79-92.
[32] Furnes, B., & Samuelsson, S. (2010). Predicting Reading and Spelling Difficulties in Transparent and Opaque Orthographies: A Comparison between Scandinavian and US/Australian Children. Dyslexia, 16, 119-142.
[33] Furnes, B., & Samuelsson, S. (2011). Phonological Awareness and Rapid Automatized Naming Predicting Early Development in Reading and Spelling: Results from a Cross-Linguistic Longitudinal Study. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 85-95.
[34] Garson, D. G. (2008). Factor Analysis: Statnotes. North Carolina State University Public Administration Program.
[35] Gathercole, S. E., Alloway, T. P., Kirkwood, H. J., Elliott, J. G., Holmes, J., & Hilton, K. A. (2008). Attentional and Executive Function Behaviors in Children with Poor Working Memory. Learning and Individual Differences, 18, 214-223.
[36] Georgiou, G., Das, J. P., & Hayward, D. (2008). Comparing the Contribution of Two Tests of Working Memory to Reading in Relation to Phonological Awareness and Rapid Naming Speed. Journal of Research in Reading, 31, 302-318.
[37] Georgiou, G. K., Parrila, R., & Papadopoulos, T. C. (2008). Predictors of Word Decoding and Reading Fluency across Languages Varying in Orthographic Consistency. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 566-580.
[38] Georgiou, G. K., Papadopoulos, T. C., Zarouna, E., & Parrila, R. (2012). Are Auditory and Visual Processing Deficits Related to Developmental Dyslexia? Dyslexia, 18, 110-129.
[39] Hair, J., Black, W., Babin, B., Anderson, R., & Tatham, R. (2006). Multivariate Data Analysis (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
[40] Hawelka, S., & Wimmer, H. (2005). Impaired Visual Processing of Multi-Element Arrays Is Associated with Increased Number of Eye Movements in Dyslexic Reading. Vision Research, 45, 855-863.
[41] Hayes-Harb, R. (2006). Native Speakers of Arabic and ESL Texts: Evidence for the Transfer of Written Word Identification Processes. TESOL Quarterly, 40, 321-339.
[42] Huang, H. C., & Wang, T. Y. (2009). Stimulus Effects on Cancellation Task Performance in Children with and without Dyslexia. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 539-545.
[43] Iles, J., Walsh, V., & Richardson, A. (2000). Visual Search Performance in Dyslexia. Dyslexia, 6, 163-177.<163::AID-DYS150>3.0.CO;2-U
[44] Jeffries, S., & Everatt, J. (2004). Working Memory: Its Role in Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties. Dyslexia, 10, 196-214.
[45] Jiménez, J. E., & Hernández-Valle, I. (2000). Word Identification and Reading Disorders in the Spanish Language. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 32, 267-275.
[46] Kirby, J. R., Georgiou, G. K., Martinussen, R., & Parrila, R. (2010). Naming Speed and Reading: From Prediction to Instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 341-362.
[47] Khomsi, A. (1999). LMC-R: Epreuve d'évaluation de la Compétence en Lecture. Paris: Editions du Centre de Psychologie Appliquée.
[48] Landerl, K., & Wimmer, H. (2000). Deficits in Phoneme Segmentation Are Not the Core Problem of Dyslexia: Evidence from German and English Children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 243-262.
[49] Landerl, K., Ramus, F., Moll, K., Lyytinen, H., Leppanen, P. H. T., Lohvansuu, K. et al. (2013). Predictors of Developmental Dyslexia in European Orthographies with Varying Complexity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 686-694.
[50] Layes, S., Lalonde, R., & Rebai, M. (in Press). Reading Speed and Phonological Awareness Deficits among Arabic-Speaking Dyslexic Children. Dyslexia. Published online in Wiley Online Library.
[51] Lima, R. F., Azoni, C. A., & Ciasca, S. M. (2010). Attentional Performance and Executive Functions in Children with Learning Difficulties. Psicologia: Reflexao e Crítica, 24, 685-691.
[52] Lopez-Escribano, C., & Katzir, T. (2008). Are Phonological Processes Separate from the Processes Underlying Naming Speed in a Shallow Orthography? Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 6, 641-666.
[53] Manis, F. R., Seidenberg, M. S., & Doi, L. M. (1999). See Dick RAN: Rapid Naming and the Longitudinal Prediction of Reading Subskills in First and Second Graders. Scientific Studies of Reading, 3, 129-157.
[54] Mann, V., & Wimmer, H. (2002). Phoneme Awareness and Pathways into Literacy: A Comparison of German and American Children. Reading and Writing, 15, 653-682.
[55] Nation, K., Adams, J. W., Bowyer-Crane, C. A., & Snowling, M. J. (1999). Working Memory Deficits in Poor Comprehenders Reflect Underlying Language Impairments. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 73, 139-158.
[56] Navarro, J. I., Aguilar, M., Alcalde, C., Ruiz, G., Marchena, E., & Menacho, I. (2011). Inhibitory Processes, Working Memory, Phonological Awareness, Naming Speed, and Early Arithmetic Achievement. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 14, 580-588.
[57] Neuhaus, G. F., & Swank, P. R. (2002). Understanding the Relations between RAN Letter Subtest Components and Word Reading in First-Grade Students. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 158-174.
[58] Nicolson, R. I., & Fawcett, A. J. (1994). Comparison of Deficits in Cognitive and Motor Skills among Children with Dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 44, 147-164.
[59] Oakhill, J., & Kyle, F. (2000). The Relation between Phonological Awareness and Working Memory. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 75, 152-164.
[60] Oakhill, J., Yuill, N., & Garnham, A. (2011). The Differential Relations between Verbal, Numerical and Spatial Working Memory Abilities and Children’s Reading Comprehension. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 4, 83-106.
[61] Parrila, R., Kirby, J. R., & McQuarrie, L. (2004). Articulation Rate, Naming Speed, Verbal Short-Term Memory, and Phonological Awareness: Longitudinal Predictors of Early Reading Development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 8, 3-26.
[62] Pazzaglia, F., Cornoldi, C., & Tessoldi, P. E. (1993). Learning to Read: Evidence on the Distinction between Decoding and Comprehension Skills. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 8, 247-258.
[63] Protopapas, A., & Altani, A. (2013). RAN Backward: A Test of The Visual Scanning Hypothesis. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17, 453-461.
[64] Protopapas, A., Altani, A., & Georgiou, G. K. (2013). Development of Serial Processing in Reading and Rapid Naming. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 116, 914-929.
[65] Pugh, K. R., Landi, N., Preston, J. L., Mencl, E., Austin, A. C., Sibley, D. et al. (2012). The Relationship between Phonological and Auditory Processing and Brain Organization in Beginning Readers. Brain & Language, 125, 173-183.
[66] Roman, A. A., Kirby, J. R., Parrila, R., Wade-Woolley, L., & Deacon, S. H. (2009). Toward a Comprehensive View of the Skills Involved in Word Reading in Grades 4, 6, and 8. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102, 96-113.
[67] Ryan, A., & Meara, P. (1991). The Case of the Invisible Vowels: Arabic Speakers Reading English Words. Reading in a Foreign Language, 7, 531-540.
[68] Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2005). Correlates of Reading Fluency in Arabic: Diglossic and Orthographic Factors. Reading and Writing, 18, 559-582.
[69] Seigneuric, A., Ehrlich, M.-F., Oakhill, J. V., & Yuill, N. M. (2000). Working Memory Resources and Children’s Reading Comprehension. Reading and Writing, 13, 81-103.
[70] Shalev, L., & Tsal, Y. (2003). The Wide Attentional Window: A Major Deficit of Children with Attention Difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 517-527.
[71] Share, D. L., & Levin, I. (1999). Learning to Read and Write in Hebrew. In M. Harris, & G. Hatano (Eds.), Learning to Read and Write (pp. 89-111). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[72] Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (2005). Dyslexia (Specific Reading Disability). Biological Psychiatry, 57, 1301-1309.
[73] Sheslow, D., & Adams, W. (2003). Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning (2nd ed.). Administration and Technical Manual, Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
[74] Stainthorp, R., Stuart, M., Powell, D., Quinlan, P., & Garwood, H. (2010). Visual Processing Deficits in Children with Slow RAN Performance. Scientific Studies of Reading, 14, 266-292.
[75] Stanovich, K. E., & Siegel, L. S. (1994). Phenotypic Performance Profile of Children with Reading Disabilities: A Regression-Based Test of the Phonological-Core Variable-Difference Model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 24-53.
[76] Stein, J., Talcott, J., & Walsh, V. (2000). Controversy about the Evidence for a Visual Magno-Cellular Deficit in Developmental Dyslexics. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 209-211.
[77] Stein, J., & Walsh, V. (1997). To See but Not to Read: The Magnocellular Theory of Dyslexia. Trends in Neurosciences, 20, 147-152.
[78] Streiner, D., & Norman, G. (1995). Health Measurement Scales: A Practical Guide to Their Development and Use (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[79] Swanson, H. L., & Berninger, V. W. (1995). Individual Differences in Children’s Working Memory and Writing Skill. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63, 358-385.
[80] Sweet, A. P., & Snow, C. E. (Eds.) (2003). Rethinking Reading Comprehension. New York: Guilford.
[81] Taha, H. Y. (2013). Investigating Cognitive Processes Underlying Reading in Arabic: Evidence from Typical and Poor Reading Performance. Psychology, 4, 1018-1026.
[82] Taiba, N., Al Behairi, G., Abo Al-dyiar, M., Mahfoudhi, A., Everat, J., & Heinz, C. (2010). Standardized Test of Phonological Processes for Children. Kuwait: Centre of Children Evaluation and Teaching.
[83] Taroyan, N. A., Nicolson, R. I., & Fawcett, A. J. (2007). Behavioural and Neurophysiological Correlates of Dyslexia in the Continuous Performance Task. Clinical Neurophysiology, 118, 845-855.
[84] Vaessen, A., Bertrand, D., Tóth, D., Csépe, V., Faísca, L., Reis, A. et al. (2010). Cognitive Development of Fluent Word Reading Does Not Qualitatively Differ between Transparent and Opaque Orthographies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 827-842.
[85] Vellutino, F. R., Fletcher, J. M., Snowling, M. J., & Scanlon, D. M. (2004). Specific Reading Disability (Dyslexia): What Have We Learned in the Past Four Decades? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 2-40.
[86] Vidyasagar, T. R., & Pammer, K. (2010). Dyslexia: A Deficit in Visuo-Spatial Attention, Not in Phonological Processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 57-63.
[87] Visser, T., Boden, C., & Giaschi, D. (2004). Children with Dyslexia: Evidence for Visual Attention Deficits in Perception of Rapid Sequences of Objects. Vision Research, 44, 2521-2535.
[88] Vukovic, R. K., & Siegel, L. S. (2006). The Double-Deficit Hypothesis: A Comprehensive Analysis of Evidence. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 25-47.
[89] Wiig, E. H., Zureich, P., & Helen Chan, H. N. (2000). A Clinical Rationale for Assessing Rapid Automatized Naming in Children with Language Disorders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 359-374.
[90] Wimmer, H., Mayringer, H., & Landerl, K. (2000). The Double-Deficit Hypothesis and Difficulties in Learning to Read a Regular Orthography. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 668-680.
[91] Wolf, M. (1986). Rapid Alternating Stimulus Naming in the Developmental Dyslexias. Brain and Language, 27, 360-379.
[92] Wolf, M. (1991). Naming Speed and Reading: The Contribution of the Cognitive Neurosciences. Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 123-141.
[93] Wolf, M., & Bowers, P. (1999). The Double-Deficit Hypothesis for the Developmental Dyslexia. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 415-438.
[94] Wolf, M., & Katzir-Cohen, T. (2001). Reading Fluency and Its Intervention. Scientific Studies of Reading, 5, 211-239.
[95] Zayed, A. M., Roehrig, A. D., Arrastia-Lloyd, C. M., & Gilgil, N. M. (2013). Phonological Awareness and Working Memory in Arabic-Speaking Egyptian Preschool Children at Risk for Dyslexia. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 5, 139-149.
[96] Ziegler, J. C., & Goswami, U. (2005). Reading Acquisition, Developmental Dyslexia, and Skilled Reading across Languages: A Psycholinguistic Grain Size Theory. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 3-29.
[97] Ziegler, J. C., Perry, C., Ma-Wyatt, A., Ladner, D., & Schulte-Korne, G. (2003). Developmental Dyslexia Indifferent Languages: Language-Specific or Universal? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 86, 169-193.
[98] Zeigler, J., Pech-Georgel, C., Dufau, S., & Grainger, J. (2010). Rapid Processing of Letters, Digits and Symbols: What Purely Visual-Attentional Deficit in Developmental Dyslexia? Developmental Science, 13, F8-F14.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.