The new study showed that prior to kindergarten, children with reading disabilities were distinguished from their typically developing reading counterparts by their performance on tasks of letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and rapid naming skills.
However, between these groups, only differences in skills related to phonological awareness persisted beyond the kindergarten year.
In the study, the researchers assessed children's alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness (known as the conscious sensitivity to the sound structure of language), and rapid naming skills at the beginning of kindergarten and again prior to first grade as a function of later reading outcomes.
The researchers involved in the study were Susan Lambrecht Smith, Kathleen A. Scott, Jenny Roberts, and John L. Locke.
Measures of phonological awareness distinguished the reading disabled group from the control group at Pre-K and Pre-1.
The results come in line with observations that phonological awareness is a strong predictor of reading disability in both children at general risk and genetic risk of reading difficulty.
"Our findings have implications not only for initial assessment and identification, but also for how progress in early literacy skills is viewed," concluded the authors.
The study is published in the journal Learning Disabilities Research and Practice.