This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Child Neuropsychology, Vol. 15, No. 5 (2009) available online:


Prior research has put forth at least four possible contributors to the verbal short-term memory (VSTM) deficit in children with developmental reading disabilities (RD): poor phonological awareness that affects phonological coding into VSTM, a less effective phonological store, slow articulation rate, and fewer/poorer quality long-term memory (LTM) representations. This project is among the first to test the four suppositions in one study. Participants included 18 children with RD and 18 controls. VSTM was assessed using Baddeley's model of the phonological loop. Findings suggest all four suppositions are correct, depending upon the type of material utilized. Children with RD performed comparably to controls in VSTM for common words but worse for less frequent words and nonwords. Furthermore, only articulation rate predicted VSTM for common words, whereas Verbal IQ and articulation rate predicted VSTM for less frequent words, and phonological awareness and articulation rate predicted VSTM for nonwords. Overall, findings suggest that the mechanism(s) used to code and store items by their meaning is intact in RD, and the deficit in VSTM for less frequent words may be a result of fewer/poorer quality LTM representations for these words. In contrast, phonological awareness and the phonological store are impaired, affecting VSTM for items that are coded phonetically. Slow articulation rate likely affects VSTM for most material when present. When assessing reading performance, VSTM predicted decoding skill but not word identification after controlling Verbal IQ and phonological awareness. Thus, VSTM likely contributes to reading ability when words are novel and must be decoded.