Reading is a unique, cognitive human skill crucial to life in modern societies, but, for about 10% of the children, learning to read is extremely difficult. They are affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder called dyslexia. Although impaired auditory and speech sound processing is widely assumed to characterize dyslexic individuals, emerging evidence suggests that dyslexia could arise from a more basic cross-modal letter-to-speech sound integration deficit. Letters have to be precisely selected from irrelevant and cluttering letters by rapid orienting of visual attention before the correct letter-to-speech sound integration applies. Here we ask whether prereading visual parietal-attention functioning may explain future reading emergence and development. The present 3 year longitudinal study shows that prereading attentional orienting--assessed by serial search performance and spatial cueing facilitation--captures future reading acquisition skills in grades 1 and 2 after controlling for age, nonverbal IQ, speech-sound processing, and nonalphabetic cross-modal mapping. Our findings provide the first evidence that visual spatial attention in preschoolers specifically predicts future reading acquisition, suggesting new approaches for early identification and efficient prevention of dyslexia.
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