PURPOSE - The present study examined the nature of concurrent and predictive associations between conversational language use and reading development during early school-age years.
METHOD - Language and reading data from 380 twins in the Western Reserve Reading Project were examined via phenotypic correlations and multilevel modeling on exploratory latent factors.
RESULTS - In the concurrent prediction of children's early reading abilities, a significant interaction emerged between children's conversational language abilities and their history of reported language difficulties. Specifically, conversational language concurrently predicted reading development above and beyond variance accounted for by formal vocabulary scores, but only in children with a history of reported language difficulties. A similar trend was noted in predicting reading skills 1 year later, but the interaction was not statistically significant.
CONCLUSIONS - Findings suggest a more nuanced view of the association between spoken language and early reading than is commonly proposed. One possibility is that children with and without a history of reported language difficulties rely on different skills, or the same skills to differing degrees, when completing early reading-related tasks. Future studies should examine the causal link between conversational language and early reading specifically in children with a history of reported language difficulties.