Although perceptual explanations for reading problems were common in the early discussions of Learning Disabilities, educators now mostly agree that the language factors have far greater influence on reading problems. A recent study by Nicole Halaar and colleagues underscores this idea and, especially importantly, points to the importance of early childhood language development in later reading competence. In fact, although genetic factors play a role in later reading competence, environmental exert substantial influence.
Of course, given the extensive work on them over the past 20 years, educators understand the importance of phonemic awareness and decoding in reading. But these factors do not completely explain the variation in outcomes for children learning to read. The contributions of semantic and syntactic factors must be included to move closer to explaining why children differ in their reading outcomes, especially when the outcome of concern is facility in comprehending what one has read.
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