The relationship between language and reading has been studied from several perspectives but is not fully understood. Studies of this relationship have examined the relative importance of decoding and basic reading skills versus broader language skills for reading comprehension, reporting that phonological awareness and decoding are more important for reading comprehension early in the process of literacy acquisition, whereas broader language skills become more important with decoding proficiency (e.g., Curtis, 1980; Perfetti, 1985; Vellutino, Scanlon, Small, & Tanzman, 1991). This study sought to explore these relationships in the context of Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement (Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001), a single test battery that includes measures of each of these areas.
A repeated multiple regression approach (as used in McGrew, 1993) in which Reading Fluency cluster and Reading Comprehension cluster served as criteria and Sound Awareness test, Basic Reading cluster, Listening Comprehension cluster, and Oral Expression cluster served as predictors was used to examine these issues. These analyses were computed for six age groups (age 6, 7, 8-9, 10-12, 13-16, and 17-18; n = 2,885) and six grade groups (grade 1, 2, 3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12; n = 2,748) in a cross-sectional design to allow for consideration of relationships across the school years. Standardized regression coefficients were utilized as measures of relative importance, and were plotted to reveal trends in these relationships.
The results indicated that the strength of the relationships of Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension with Basic Reading (particularly Letter-Word Identification) decreased across age and grade groups. This decrease was accompanied by an increased association between Reading Fluency and Listening Comprehension across age and grade groups, and an increased association of all predictors other than Basic Reading with Reading Comprehension across age and grade groups. These findings support those of previous studies, as well as the hypothesis that broader language skills become more strongly associated with reading comprehension as decoding proficiency increases.