Robin van Rijthoven

105 Compensatory role of verbal learning and consolidation in reading and spelling 5 Introduction In learning to read, children learn to integrate orthographic, phonological, and semantic codes into highly specified and redundant lexical representations (Perfetti, 2007). After having cracked the alphabetic code, they need to speed up their visual word decoding and spelling with ongoing practice (Ehri, 2005). Brain studies showed that during fluent reading, typically developing children show activation in the posterior regions, while poor readers tend to show underactivation (Paulesu et al., 2001; Shaywitz et al., 2002). This underactivation could hinder the building of an efficient connection between orthographic and phonological codes, and thus can be linked to the phonological deficit that is associated with dyslexia (Göbel & Snowling, 2010; Shaywitz et al., 2003). However, poor readers may compensate for their reading and spelling problems by using their ability for verbal learning. In learning new verbal information, both the verbal learning (learning through rehearsals) and consolidation of the learned material (recall over time) are important and independent processes (Helmstaedter et al., 1997). A higher verbal learning capacity enables the learning of new phonological information, which may enhance the phonological network. This, in turn, may support reading and spelling development. So far, behavioural research into this possibly compensatory role of verbal learning in children with dyslexia is limited and mostly lacking control variables and a typically reading control group. In addition, the impact of verbal learning and consolidation on responsiveness to intervention has not been tested. Therefore, in the present study, the impact of verbal learning and verbal consolidation on reading and spelling before and after a phonics intervention were examined. Reading and spelling in children with dyslexia Already at a young age, children start to develop their spoken language. According to Levelt and colleagues (1999) this development starts with the formation of semantic representations (which word refers to which object), which are connected to phonological representations (words contain separate phonological segments). The formation of semantic and phonological representations can be seen as the foundation on which further reading and spelling development builds (Shaywitz et al., 2003). Literacy development continues when children learn to read by recoding graphemes into sounds and blend these sounds into spoken words. At the same time children learn to spell words by dividing a spoken word into separate sounds and write the corresponding graphemes. In the beginning, children read and spell slowly. Later, reading and spelling gets faster and more fluent. According to the lexical quality hypothesis, this is the consequence of the formation of phonological, semantic, and orthographicrepresentationsandbi-directional relationsbetweentheserepresentations during reading and spelling (Perfetti, 2007). The specificity and redundancy of the representations determine reading and spelling levels (Perfetti, 2007). Children with