Language-literacy. Are speech-language pathologists equipped to support literacy?

Language-literacy are closely related to the other. In fact it could be said that the terms literacy and language are two sides of the same coin.

When we refer to language-literacy we are essentially talking about reading, writing, and reading comprehension skill.

Reading and reading comprehension skills are reliant on a solid oral language base.

In years past, reading skill (decoding) was assumed to be mostly a visual perceptual skill.

Certainly, the visual system has a part to play in literacy learning, but recent research indicates that reading disability is primarily linguistic, not visual. Paul, (2006)

Literacy is seen as mostly the domain of the teaching profession. I would argue that speech-language pathologists are experts in oral and written language, both of which are linked to language-literacy development.

Recent research indicates that children with language disorder are at risk of developing reading problems due to poor phonological processing ability, inadequate semantic word and world knowledge, and impaired oral and reading comprehension skills.

A child with poor phonological awareness often has a difficult time decoding text. Speech-language pathologists are well suited to work with children who have phonological awareness and vocabulary difficulties.

Speech-language pathologists also have a wealth of knowledge in other key literacy skills, such as semantics, syntax, and pragmatics.

Text based intervention

Shared book reading is an important series of language intervention tools that assist children to access the deeper inference and language structures of written text. The texts used can be either non-fiction texts or storybooks. Shared reading strategies is a useful method of creating language skills for students who experience receptive and expressive language difficulty.

Shared book reading can provide a context for learning that develops students' inferencing abilities, which are vital skills for understanding the hidden meaning behind both fiction and non-fiction texts.

Though speech-language pathologists have a role to play in literacy they are not reading teachers.

In my local area I often refer students with reading disability to a colleague, Lyn Stone. Lyn is a reading specialist who once studied under the Lindamood people. She also incorporates the Spalding approach to reading tuition and is an advocate of direct instruction.

Lyn has a well written ebook called
Spelling for Life. Lyn has worked with children with literacy difficulties for a long period of time, and is expert at taking students from poor readers and spellers to proficient readers and spellers. Certainly worth a look.


Blank, M. (2006)The Reading Remedy. Six Essential Skills that Will Turn Your Child into a Reader. Jossey-Bass

Owens, R.E. (1996) Language Development: An Introduction, Allyn & Bacon

Paul, R. (2006) Language Disoders form Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby

Wagner, R.K. Muse, A.E. & Tannenbaum, K.R. (2007) Vocabulary Acquisition: Implications for Reading Comprehension. The Guilford Press

Content Updated 8/11

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