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Rapid Naming and Reading Performance

Rapid naming and reading performance
In recent years, evidence that rapid naming skill is associated with reading ability has become increasingly prevalent. Rapid naming, or rapid automatized naming (RAN), is the ability to name letters, symbols, words, or objects quickly and automatically.

However, there are considerable differences in the literature concerning the extent of this relationship. Some studies have reported a strong correlation between measures of RAN and reading, whereas others have found small or nonsignificant correlations.


In a study, Araújo et al. (2015) provided a comprehensive analysis of the evidence on the relationship between RAN and reading performance. The authors conducted a meta-analysis of the correlational relationship between these two constructs to

  • (a) determine the overall strength of the RAN–reading association and
  • (b) identify variables that systematically moderate this relationship.

Meta-analysis is the statistical combination of the results of multiple studies addressing a similar research question.

The results

Araújo and team analyzed data from 137 studies and found a moderate-to-strong relationship between RAN and reading performance. In fact, the meta-analysis demonstrated that RAN tasks have great potential for predicting reading ability.

Further analyses revealed that RAN contributes to the four reading measures:

  • word reading,
  • text reading,
  • non-word reading, and
  • reading comprehension.

Higher coefficients emerged in favor of real-word reading and text reading. This finding implies that rapid naming correlates with reading performance regardless of whether the literacy measure relies more heavily on phonological or orthographic coding skills.

The results indicated an association between rapid naming skill and reading performance from the beginning of reading acquisition and that the influence of RAN on reading continues throughout elementary school.

Orthographic depth

Finally, the study authors examined whether the orthographic depth impacts the correlations between RAN and reading performance.

Orthographic depth refers to the degree of regularity in symbol–sound correspondences. In “shallow” orthographies, the symbol–sound relationships are regular and thus transparent. Spanish, for example, has a highly consistent and reliable set of grapheme-to-phoneme correspondences, in which each letter generally corresponds to only one phoneme. English, in contrast, is a “deep” or opaque orthography. For example, the morpheme -ed is pronounced in three different ways, as in talked ([t]), visited ([ĭd]), and called ([d]).

The data demonstrated that RAN significantly correlates with reading ability across languages that vary in orthographic consistency. The correlations for transparent orthographies were weaker than for opaque orthographies.

In addition, this study revealed that RAN plays a vital role in learning to read regardless of whether the sample subjects used an alphabetic or non-alphabetic writing system, such as Chinese or Japanese. When reading fluency measures were considered, RAN is an even more robust correlate of reading ability in non-alphabetic than alphabetic languages.

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