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Minerva Pediatrica 2020 Jun 05

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4946.20.05619-4


language: English

Reading and writing difficultiesin third and sixth-grade students: a cross-sectional survey

Francesca F. OPERTO , Dario ESPOSITO, Claudia NICOLETTI, Mario LA CORTE, Roberta DEL DUCA, Andrea VIGGIANO, Grazia M. PASTORINO, Salvatore AIELLO, Maddalena MALIANNI, Giangennaro COPPOLA

Department of Medicine, Surgery and Odontostomatology, Medical School of Salerno, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy


BACKGROUND: In southern Italy and, specifically, in the region of Campania, many surveys show that the average of students with reading difficulties is much higher than in northern Italy and abroad. On the other hand, specific learning disorders (SLDs) in Campania are much less certified. Since there are no etiological reasons that can explain this apparent inconsistency, an objective of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the extent of reading/writing difficulties in students from a province of Campania and then to assess the ability of teachers to identify such difficulties in their students.
METHODS: Of a total of 241 enrolled students, 155 (64.31%), including 73 from primary school and 82 from secondary school, belonging to 5 schools in the province of Salerno (Italy), took part in the survey. Students’ reading and writing skills were assessed through standardized tests. The tests results were then compared with teacher judgments and context-related variables.
RESULTS: At the reading test, 28.7% of primary school and 13.4% of lower secondary school students fell below the 5th percentile for age. Results of the writing test were even more significant: almost half of the students of both levels of education performed below the 5th percentile. Teacher judgments showed higher agreement with standardized assessments in primary (88%, K of Cohen = 0.68) than in secondary school (78%, K = 0.23).
CONCLUSIONS: Reading and writing difficulties were common in our sample. While reading skills tended to improve with age, writing difficulties apparently persisted to some extent in third and sixth-grade classes. The accuracy of teacher judgments on reading skills is relatively high, but teachers seem to hardly report reading difficulties “requiring attention”. Although less "severe" than others, such difficulties should be taken into account, mainly because of their potential developmental trajectories.

KEY WORDS: Reading difficulties; Writing difficulties; Learning impairment; Teachers’ awareness

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