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Thursday, January 14, 2010
New study to be published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, shows that while genetics play a key role in children's initial reading skills, the environment plays an important role in reading growth over time. The study participants were 314 Ohio twins participating in the Western Reserve Reading Project, including both identical twins and same-sex fraternal twins. The twins began the study when they were in kindergarten or first grade and were assessed annually for two years. The twins were given a 90-minute battery of reading-based measures, including tasks measuring word and letter identification, the ability to sound out words, and the speed at which children could name a series of letters. The findings showed that when children start out reading, both genetics and environment play a role in readings skills, depending on the skills assessed. For word and letter identification, genetics explained about one-third of the test results, while environment explained two-thirds. For vocabulary and sound awareness, it was equally split between genetics and environment. For the speed tests, it was three-quarters genetic. But when the researchers measured growth in reading skills, environment became much more important. The results of this study give further evidence that children can make gains in reading during their early school years, above and beyond the important genetic factors that influence differences in reading.