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Eye movements in German-speaking children with and without dyslexia when reading aloud

Susanne Trauzettel-Klosinski, A Michaela Koitzsch, Ute Dürrwächter, Alexander N Sokolov, Jens Reinhard, Gunter Klosinski
Acta Ophthalmologica 2010, 88 (6): 681-91
19508458

PURPOSE: The phonological difficulty and orthographic regularity of a language influence reading strategies. Only a few studies have been conducted in readers of German, which has a high grapheme-phoneme correspondence. The aim of this study was to investigate, firstly, the influence of different levels of phonological difficulty of reading material in German on reading in children and, secondly, to compare the reading strategies of German children with findings in English-speaking readers.

METHODS:   Eye movements in 16 German children with dyslexia and 16 age-matched control children (mean age 9.5±0.35years) in the third and fourth grades of school were recorded by scanning laser ophthalmoscope while they read aloud two texts of differing levels of difficulty.

RESULTS:   In the dyslexia group, reading speed was slowed, and the number of saccades and regressions was raised markedly, although the percentage of regressions only slightly. The number of eye movements increased in both groups with increasing text difficulty, although much more in the dyslexia group than in the control group, whereas fixation duration was not influenced.

CONCLUSIONS:   Phonological difficulty influences reading speed and eye movement pattern: children with dyslexia markedly increase their number of eye movements and analyse the text in smaller units per fixation, but keep fixation duration constant. This strategy reflects their favouring of the indirect, sublexical route of grapheme-phoneme conversion, whereas readers of English-language texts are more likely to prefer the whole-word approach, i.e. the direct, lexical route that is associated with orthographic memory.

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