Research Article: Eye Movements during Silent and Oral Reading in a Regular Orthography: Basic Characteristics and Correlations with Childhood Cognitive Abilities and Adolescent Reading Skills

Date Published: February 2, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Magdalena Krieber, Katrin D. Bartl-Pokorny, Florian B. Pokorny, Dajie Zhang, Karin Landerl, Christof Körner, Franz Pernkopf, Thomas Pock, Christa Einspieler, Peter B. Marschik, Kevin Paterson.


The present study aimed to define differences between silent and oral reading with respect to spatial and temporal eye movement parameters. Eye movements of 22 German-speaking adolescents (14 females; mean age = 13;6 years;months) were recorded while reading an age-appropriate text silently and orally. Preschool cognitive abilities were assessed at the participants’ age of 5;7 (years;months) using the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children. The participants’ reading speed and reading comprehension at the age of 13;6 (years;months) were determined using a standardized inventory to evaluate silent reading skills in German readers (Lesegeschwindigkeits- und -verständnistest für Klassen 6–12). The results show that (i) reading mode significantly influenced both spatial and temporal characteristics of eye movement patterns; (ii) articulation decreased the consistency of intraindividual reading performances with regard to a significant number of eye movement parameters; (iii) reading skills predicted the majority of eye movement parameters during silent reading, but influenced only a restricted number of eye movement parameters when reading orally; (iv) differences with respect to a subset of eye movement parameters increased with reading skills; (v) an overall preschool cognitive performance score predicted reading skills at the age of 13;6 (years;months), but not eye movement patterns during either silent or oral reading. However, we found a few significant correlations between preschool performances on subscales of sequential and simultaneous processing and eye movement parameters for both reading modes. Overall, the findings suggest that eye movement patterns depend on the reading mode. Preschool cognitive abilities were more closely related to eye movement patterns of oral than silent reading, while reading skills predicted eye movement patterns during silent reading, but less so during oral reading.

Partial Text

It is a common strategy of beginning readers to focus on oral reading, i.e. grapheme-phoneme-conversion and reading of chunked units, such as syllables and words. Verbalization of written content allows the teacher to monitor the reading process and prevent the reader from skipping complex words. With time, silent reading becomes increasingly important until eventually it replaces oral reading as preferred reading mode as we become competent readers (e.g., [1–3]).

While many studies have investigated various aspects of eye movements during reading, the difference between silent and oral reading has received only little attention as of yet (e.g., [23–27]). The assessment discussed in this paper was part of a longitudinal study (aspects of reading development are presented in Bartl-Pokorny et al. [45] and Krieber et al. [46]). The main aim here was to highlight differences between silent and oral reading in adolescent readers of German, a regular orthography.




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