Matthew Effect in Reading

Matthew Effect

The Matthew Effect follows the well-known adage of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As it applies to reading, good readers gain a significant advantage over time because they are better readers. A strong reader enjoys reading and thus reads more. By reading more, they further develop better reading skills. In turn, this encourages them to read more and become even stronger readers. A cycle of success is established. By contrast, weak readers read less because reading is not enjoyable. They become less skilled and remain less skilled. Because of this loop, a skill gap between strong and weak readers exists and widens over time.

Unfortunately, reading less also results in reduced vocabulary, reading fluency, world knowledge, and comprehension. Whereas, fluent frequent reading builds vocabulary, knowledge, and understanding. There appears to be a mutual relationship between reading and vocabulary development. A large vocabulary helps readers understand stories better and comprehension of stories builds vocabulary; a mutually beneficial relationship. Likewise, a reduced vocabulary makes it difficult to understand stories, and limited understanding slows vocabulary development – unfortunately a lose-lose situation.  

There are treatment strategies to reduce this Matthew Effect. A primary strategy is to increase a struggling reader’s phonemic awareness. That is, their ability to hear and manipulate speech sounds in words. Kids will then apply this skill to reading and spelling. At MOSAIC Health & Rehab, we provide direct explicit instruction in phonemic knowledge upon which we build reading and writing skills. Call today to schedule an appointment for your child.