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Letters to Nature
Nature 271, 746 - 747 (23 February 1978); doi:10.1038/271746a0

Difficulties in auditory organisation as a possible cause of reading backwardness


*Human Development Research Unit, Park Hospital, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

LEARNING to read and write involves auditory perception, for the child must learn how different kinds of sounds are written. It might seem, however, that although auditory perception is essential to reading, it would not be a significant source of difficulty, for, apart from a few exceptional cases, most children who have difficulties with reading can hear perfectly well, and can discriminate and understand the words which they signally fail to read1. But discriminating words is not the only aspect of audition involved in reading. The child must also be able to group together words which are different but which have sounds in common. If he is to learn the rules of reading and writing he must understand that ‘hat’, ‘cat’ and ‘mat’, though different, nevertheless have a sound in common. We report here results which suggest that difficulties in this kind of grouping may be a significant source of difficulty in learning to read.



1. Wallach, L., Wallach, M. A., Donier. M. & Kaplan, N. E. J. educ. Psychol. 69, 36 (1977).
2. Audley, R. J., Presidential address to British Association, Lancaster (1976).
3. Liberman, I. Y. Bull. Orton. Soc. 23, 65–77 (1973).
4. Venezky, R. L., Shiloah, Y. & Calfee, R. Wisconsin Research and Development Center for Cognitive Learning, Technical Report No. 277 (1972).

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