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Reading Development and Difficulties

ISBN: 978-1-4051-5155-9
272 pages
June 2010, ©2010
Reading Development and Difficulties (1405151552) cover image


This accessible text brings together research on word reading and comprehension development, which are often treated separately, and provides a comprehensive and detailed introductory text to reading development and difficulties.

Key features include:

  • An introduction to the important issues in reading research and the skills involved in reading words and understanding text, from the point of view of both a beginner and a skilled reader
  • A consideration of the similarities and differences between written and spoken language, and the advantages and disadvantages of different methodological approaches
  • An examination of how failures in reading comprehension skills can create difficulties and disorders
  • A consideration of the implications of this research for the teaching of reading and the diagnosis and treatment of reading difficulties

This text will be useful to many different groups of readers, not only researchers and students in psychology but also those who work in more applied settings, such as students in education and speech and language therapy, who may have a limited background knowledge of the psychology of reading.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Introduction to the study of reading 1

What is reading? 2

The relationship between written and spoken language 4

How to study reading development and reading difficulties 14

Overview of the rest of this book 20

2 Skilled word reading 25

Word reading: Assessment and sources of variation 26

Models of skilled word recognition 36

3 The skilled comprehender 47

What do we forget and what do we remember? 48

Local and global coherence 52

Models of text representation 59

4 Learning to read words 67

Ways to read words 68

Skills and knowledge that aid word reading development 74

Phases of word reading development 81

What drives word reading development? 85

5 The development of reading comprehension 95

The relations between word reading, listening comprehension and reading comprehension 96

Skills and knowledge that support reading comprehension 99

Reading comprehension development 112

6 Developmental dyslexia 121

Developmental dyslexia: Definitions and characteristics 122

Theories of dyslexia 126

A look at subtypes: Are all dyslexic children the same or do different types of dyslexic exist? 134

Dyslexia across the lifespan: Precursors, compensation and consequences 140

7 Reading comprehension difficulties 147

What is poor reading comprehension? 148

Sources of discourse comprehension failure 153

Causes of discourse comprehension failure 164

The consequences of poor discourse comprehension 166

8 Instruction and intervention 171

Instruction and interventions for word reading 172

Instruction and interventions for reading comprehension 179

Support and instruction for reading development 185

9 The assessment of reading 191

Assessment matters 192

Word reading assessment: What, when and how? 196

The assessment of reading comprehension: What, when and how? 201

10 The Simple View of Reading: A framework for the study of reading development and reading difficulties 213

The Simple View of Reading: A brief overview 214

The Simple View of Reading and reading development 215

The Simple View of Reading and reading difficulties 218

The Simple View of Reading: An evaluation 219

Reading development and reading difficulties: Implications 220

Conclusions 221

Bibliography 223

Glossary 247

Index 253

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Author Information

Kate Cain, D.Phil., is a Reader in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University. Her research focuses on the development of language comprehension in children and she has a particular interest in the cognitive and language-related skill deficits that lead to comprehension problems. To date, she has published widely on language and reading development in journals such as Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, and Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, and has written 15 book chapters and co-edited Children's Comprehension Problems in Oral and Written Language: a Cognitive Perspective (with Jane Oakhill, 2007). She is Associate Editor for the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders and the Journal of Research in Reading.
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"Intended for undergraduates studying literacy acquisition and for professionals with no previous background in reading development or difficulties, Cain provides a balanced, comprehensive, accessible introduction to the development of the two core aspects of reading - good word-reading skills and the ability to extract the overall meaning of a text." (Higher Times Education, November 2010)

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Professor Reviews

“This is a scholarly textbook which should become essential reading for psychologists, educationalists and speech and language therapists. Kate Cain has an ability to present very complex issues with a degree of clarity that ensures the reader comes to a deep understanding of the issues and quality of the scientific evidence that she presents for analysis.”

Professor Rhona Stainthorp,
Institute of Education, University of Reading



"Kate Cain’s valuable account of the psychology of learning to read is clear, incisive and always interesting. It tells us how children learn to decipher single words and to read whole sentences, and also how they are eventually able to co-ordinate the meanings of several, different sentences in order to understand quite complicated texts."


Peter Bryant, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Education, Oxford University

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