The role of text type in the reading development of beginning readers with English as an additional language

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Supervisor

Susan Main

Second Supervisor

Janet Hunter

Third Supervisor

Michelle Striepe


Exposure to words via connected text reading facilitates children’s reading progress and the development of a large sight vocabulary. The type of texts that beginning readers have access to is the subject of much debate, yet there is little research, especially in Australia, regarding which texts provide the most benefit to children’s reading development. This study aimed to measure the impact of text type on reading progress in the first year of school. The foundation reading and spelling skills of a sample of Western Australian pre-primary students with English as an additional language (n = 17) were measured using both standardised assessments and curriculum-based measures. Following stratification into higher and lower literacy groups, children were randomly allocated to groups in which they read either a decodable or predictable text. This resulted in four treatment groups: high decodable text (HDT); low decodable text (LDT); high predictable text (HPT); and low predictable text (LPT). Children received daily systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) instruction followed by small group and independent activities to reinforce the daily phonics lesson. The small group reading intervention took place during the morning literacy block, with each treatment group reading to the teacher for 10 to 12 minutes, once per week, over a nine-week period.

Descriptive and statistical analyses, with support from teacher interviews, showed that literacy level at school commencement was a critical factor in beginning reading development for this cohort. While children with higher literacy levels were less affected by text type, children with lower literacy levels benefited more from reading decodable (compared to predictable) texts. It is possible that the classroom phonics program mitigated the negative effects of reading predictable texts for the high literacy group, while the low literacy group benefited from the additional scaffolding provided. Analysis of the features and characteristics of each text type also offer insights into the reading progress made by each treatment group. The results of this research provide support for using decodable text to scaffold reading development for children who commence reading instruction with lower literacy and language skills. These findings offer insights into how texts scaffold the development of early reading skills when paired with a systematic synthetic phonics program. The implications for teacher practice and future research examining the role of texts in beginning reading development are discussed.



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