Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



At-risk prekindergarten students (i.e., low SES, speech-language impaired) typically lag behind their peers in phonological awareness and other emergent literacy skills such as letter knowledge and vocabulary (Duursma et al., 2008; Lundberg, 2009). However, there is a limited amount of research that has studied the efficacy of phonological interventions for at-risk children (Ziolkowski & Goldstein, 2008). Because of the long-lived debate concerning the role of rhyme versus the role of phoneme awareness, it is uncertain whether learning rhyming skills will provide the most facilitative context to learn other emergent literacy skills (e.g., letter knowledge, phonemic awareness). The current study investigated the effects of an 8-week intervention on learning the alphabetic principle (i.e., letter knowledge, phonemic awareness), phonemic awareness skills, and rhyming complexity skills. The existence of a continuum of rhyming complexity skills (e.g., expressive rhyming, rhyming couplets) was also explored. Twenty-nine at-risk prekindergarten students received an intervention focused on rhyme awareness (i.e., rhyme) or an intervention focused on phoneme awareness. The results of the study revealed both groups made statistically comparable progress on letter knowledge, phonemic awareness, word reading, and rhyming complexity skills. A visual inspection of gains scores and cut-off scores for weekly probes revealed differential progress by the type of intervention received. Participants with a suspected or diagnosed speech-language impairment were not significantly different from their peers at the conclusion of the study. The result of the study also indicated that rhyming skills exist on continuum of complexity with reciting nursery rhymes being the least complex and coordinating sound and rhyme being the most complex.



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Committee Chair

Norris, Jan