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Review of  Fluency in Reading

Reviewer: Prisca Stenneken
Book Title: Fluency in Reading
Book Author: Zvia Breznitz
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 17.2188

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Title: Fluency in Reading
Subtitle: Synchronization of Processes
Author: Zvia Breznitz
Published: 2006
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Prisca Stenneken, Prof. i.K. Dr., Department of Physiological and Clinical
Psychology, Cath. University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany

This monograph covers the issue of reading fluency. Theoretical
considerations are applied to mechanisms of normal reading and to
developmental disorders of written language processing (dyslexia). The main
focus of the book is on the crucial role of the speed of information
processing in the brain in determining reading fluency. With the
Synchronization Hypothesis, the author argues that accurate integration of
information in word reading (especially in word decoding) can occur only
when the modalities (e.g. auditory or visual processing modality) and brain
systems are in synchronization with each other. Thus, developmental
dyslexia is assumed to arise from ineffective temporal coordination of all
the components that participate in the process of translating artificial
printed symbols into meaning. As a basis for this hypothesis, the book
provides an extensive overview of the various theoretical concepts (e.g.,
reading rate, automaticity, prosody, and naming speed) and a discussion of
behavioral and electrophysiological (ERP) findings related to fluency in
The book is intended for researchers and advanced students in the fields of
cognitive linguistics, psychology and neuropsychology, with focus in
reading research. It may also provide in-depth information on theoretical
concepts that form the basis of clinical-practical work with dyslexic
readers. The author, Prof. Dr. Zvia Breznitz, is Head of the Department of
Learning Disabilities and Director of the Laboratory for Neurocognitive
Research at Haifa University in Israel. Zvia Breznitz is known to
researchers in the field by her long history of research and empirical
investigations in the area of reading fluency.

The author develops her theoretical concept of reading fluency in the
course of the 14 book chapters which she assigns to three main parts: (1)
Description of word reading fluency, (2) The determinants of word reading
fluency, and (3) The ''Sychronization Hypothesis''.

Part I: Description of Word Reading Fluency.
The first five chapters explain relevant theoretical concepts related to
the fluency in reading, which is discussed from both traditional and modern
perspectives. In contrast to the more traditional view of reading fluency
as a convenient measure of reading skills, the author argues that fluency
has a strong impact on other aspects of reading and plays a central role in
the entire reading process. After giving an introduction to reading fluency
and the factor 'reading rate', the author discusses the topics of
automaticity in reading, prosody, and naming speed. This extensive and
multi-face ted overview is a great strength of this book.
In addition, these introductory chapters contribute to the methodological
understanding of the topic. This methodological approach focuses on the
fact that reading rate, as the central factor in fluent word reading, can
either be regarded as a dependent or independent variable: Depending on the
theoretical standpoint, reading accuracy and comprehension can either be
regarded as underlying processes of reading rate, or - as the author
suggests - as being affected by reading rate. Thus, these first chapters
also point to the methodological implications for future research in
reading fluency.

Part II: The Determinants of Word Reading Fluency.
The second part of the book deals with the determinants of reading fluency.
Among these, the main focus is on the speed of information processing in
the brain. In two chapters, the author gives a systematic and detailed
description of the two processing modalities relevant for reading, i.e. the
visual and the auditory-phonological modality. Reference is made to the
basic theoretical concepts, the physiology and the relevant brain
structures, and the underlying mechanisms in normal reading. In addition,
the chapters discuss the different explanatory accounts of deficits in
reading fluency that relate to visual or auditory-phonological processing.
Here, as the author acknowledges, it is sometimes difficult to disentangle
accounts that make reference to lower level perceptual processes vs.
higher, linguistic level, processes.
Based on these theoretical considerations the author reviews extensive
empirical evidence from her lab. These research projects by Breznitz and
colleagues investigated different stages of information processing in
normal and dyslexic reading, including a behavioral study and a study using
the measures of Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) that are described in more
detail. In sum, the empirical studies by Breznitz and colleagues
demonstrated that dyslexic readers were slower than regular readers at each
stage of activation in the word decoding process in each modality and
system. In relating the findings to the complex issues of cross-modal
integration the author argues that the word decoding impairment in dyslexic
readers can be attributed to deficient synchronization in the speed of
processing of the modalities and the systems involved in reading. In
addition, the author claims that dyslexic readers are less able to identify
word patterns, as these were not appropriately stored in the mental
lexicon. As a consequence, this would further slow down the already slow
speed of processing. For the more detailed specification of the hypothesis,
the reader is referred to the following chapters.

Part III: The ''Sychronization Hypothesis''.
The final part of the book comprises three chapters which illustrate the
Synchronization Hypothesis and discuss the role of the asynchrony
phenomenon as a major factor in dyslexia. As has been proposed in earlier
studies of the author (e.g., Breznitz, 2001, 2003; Breznitz & Misra, 2003),
a slow speed of processing is assumed as the general underlying cause of
dyslexia. In more detail, the speed of processing of the various components
involved in reading is not sufficiently coordinated in dyslexia. Here, the
author relates back to the concept of the word decoding rate which is
determined by two factors: 1. by the characteristics of the information
processing system, and 2. by the speed of processing of the modalities and
the systems involved in reading. Consequently, the author argues for the
relevance to measure the speed of processing of the visual and the auditory
modalities as well as cross modal integration in regular and dyslexic
readers. Additional empirical evidence is provided, using the method of
computing cross-modality gap scores from different sets of single-modality
Finally, the author presents an intervention study which manipulated the
reading rate by means of the acceleration method. It is assumed that, under
time constraints, lexical access may be based on a holistic, orthographic
word pattern. Thus according to the author, the acceleration method may
force the dyslexic readers to rely more strongly on this strategy and less
so on the impaired phonological system. In sum, this method is suggested as
a possible intervention technique to prompt the (dyslexic) brain to process
graphemic information more effectively. Based on this piece of evidence,
future studies could show how this technique can be applied in a broader
context and to different orthographies.
In contrast to many previous accounts of dyslexia, the present approach
does not aim to specify a single deficient mechanism underlying the
dyslexic disorder. It rather focuses on the complex (temporal) interplay of
the various structures involved in the reading process. As a consequence,
it does not allow to specify the relative contributions of, for example,
different sub-components in the reading process, of the auditory vs. the
visual modalities, or of higher level vs. lower level mechanisms in the
''information processing system''.

The book posits a new approach to reading fluency in dyslexia, based on the
view that effective reading requires synchronization of the different brain
systems. The synchronization hypothesis is developed from an extensive
description of the relevant theoretical concepts and a discussion of
supportive empirical evidence. The author gives an expanded view of reading
fluency in discussing the concept as both a dependent and an independent
variable. By presenting wide-ranging empirical evidence, including ERP
measures, the present book contributes to the often claimed converging
methods approach. In addition, some ideas are presented for research-based
intervention procedures to enhance reading fluency.

Breznitz, Z. (2001). The determinants of reading fluency: A comparison of
dyslexic and average readers. In M. Wolf (Ed.), Dyslexia, fluency and the
brain (pp.245-276). Cambridge, MA: York Press.
Breznitz, Z. (2003). Speed of phonological and orthographic processing as
factors in dyslexia: Electrophysiological evidence. Genetic, Social and
General Psychology Mongraphs, 129(2), 183-206.
Breznitz, Z. & Misra, A. (2003). Speed of processing of the
visual-orthographic and auditory-phonological systems in adult dyslexics:
The contribution of ''asynchrony'' to word recognition deficits. Brain and
Language, 85(3), 486-502.

Prisca Stenneken, educated in (Neuro-)Linguistics and Psychology,
temporarily holds the chair in Physiological and Clinical Psychology (Cath.
University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany). Her main field of research is
language production and perception in relation to other cognitive
functions. Her focus is on the empirical investigation of disorders in
written and spoken language, involving developmental deficits and acquired
neuropsychological impairments. In current projects, she has conducted
experimental studies on disorders of reading and its underlying mechanisms,
like spatial, attentional and lexical processing.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 080584144X
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 320
Prices: U.S. $ 99.95