Potential relationships among language-complexity variables, home-language variables and range of reading ability: evidence from PIRLS 2016 and PISA 2018
Reading is one of the most important skills for children to master during their time in school. It is strongly connected to life outcomes, and as such, education ministries place it at the centres of their education policies. English is one of the most challenging alphabetic languages to learn to read, and governments of anglophone countries have spent many years working to improve the effectiveness of their literacy education. However, when examining International Large-Scale Assessments, it is notable that although students in anglophone countries are able to achieve among the highest reading levels, their poorest readers lag much further behind than the poorest readers in similarly successful non-anglophone countries. This study made use of data from PIRLS (2016) and PISA (2018) to investigate possible relationships between range of reading ability and language complexity variables related to orthography and morphology, as well as between range of reading ability and home-language disparity in anglophone countries. Pearson correlational analyses showed that orthographic complexity and morphological complexity were moderately correlated with range of reading ability in both datasets. Orthographic transparency was found to be strongly correlated with range of reading ability in the PISA dataset and very strongly correlated in the PIRLS dataset. Morphological unpredictability was not found to be correlated with either dataset. Home-language disparity was not shown to be connected with range of reading ability in the PISA dataset, but in the PIRLS dataset, students who never spoke English at home were shown to have a wider range of reading ability than other students.