From John Ray's shorter notes

February 13, 2006

The genetics of reading ability

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"Genetics can play a bigger role in determining a child's reading ability than teaching, an Australian researcher says. An international study showed some children were born with "an unfortunate deal of the genetic deck" when it comes to reading skills, said study co-author Brian Byrne, professor of psychology at the University of New England in northern NSW. No "magic bullet" of encouragement and tutoring would fully improve their reading abilities, he said.

Published in the latest issue of the British-based Journal of Research in Reading, the study showed the influence of parents reading to their children diminished significantly a year or so after they started school.

"The home environment doesn't leave its mark much on children as they start to go through school, which is surprising to a lot of people," Byrne said. "What seems to determine most of the differences amongst children, just in the normal school setting in terms of their reading skills, are genetics."

Anybody who knows the high correlation between IQ and early reading ability will of course not be at all surprised by the finding. Chris Brand comments on the finding too (Scroll down to post of 11th. or see below)

Journal abstract

Genetic and environmental influences on early literacy

Brian Byrne et al


Prereading and early reading skills of preschool twin children in Australia, Scandinavia and the United States were explored in a genetically sensitive design (max. N=627 preschool pairs and 422 kindergarten pairs). Analyses indicated a strong genetic influence on preschool phonological awareness, rapid naming and verbal memory. Print awareness, vocabulary and grammar/morphology were subject primarily to shared environment effects. There were significant genetic and shared environment correlations among the preschool traits. Kindergarten reading, phonological awareness and rapid naming were primarily affected by genes, and spelling was equally affected by genes and shared environment. Multivariate analyses revealed genetic and environmental overlap and independence among kindergarten variables. Longitudinal analyses showed genetic continuity as well as change in phonological awareness and rapid naming across the 2 years. Relations among the preschool variables of print awareness, phonological awareness and rapid naming and kindergarten reading were also explored in longitudinal analyses. Educational implications are discussed.

Journal of Research in Reading


For convenience, Chris Brand's comments are reproduced below:


In an international study of 600 identical and fraternal twin pairs, Australian researcher Brian Byrne (School of Psychology, U. New England, New South Wales) reported (TVNZ, 8 ii) "What seems to determine most of the differences amongst children, just in the normal school setting in terms of their reading skills, are genetics." Byrne estimated that genes accounted for 70% of variance among age peers.

{The finding that would be partly expected from the .70 correlation between reading age and the g factor that was known to Sir Cyril Burt and confirmed by work in Birmingham linking poor reading strongly to low scores on Ravenís Progressive Matrices (Riding & McQuaid, 1987, Brit. J. Educational Research 13, 1, 51ff.).}

Source (Post of 11th.)

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