Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Ralph E. Reynolds

Second Committee Member

Gwen Marchand

Third Committee Member

LeAnn Putney

Fourth Committee Member

Paul Jones

Fifth Committee Member

Cyndi Giorgis

Number of Pages



Reading difficulties in elementary school-aged children may occur when two components of reading- word identification, comprehension, or both of these skills- are weak or underdeveloped (Gough, 1972; Hoover & Gough, 1990; Joshi & Aaron, 2000; Savage, 2001). One type of reading difficulty that is frequently identified by teachers is known as "word calling." Previous research (Hamilton & Shinn, 2003; Hendricks, Reynolds & Sinatra, 2003, Meisinger, Bradley, Schwanenflugel, Kuhn, & Morris, 2009) found that teachers were not accurate in their identification of word callers (word callers). They tended to over-identify these students in their classrooms, confusing them with typical struggling readers.

The theoretical notion that only small numbers of word callers exist in any given classroom has been supported in the research literature (Shankweiler et al., 1999; see also Hamilton & Shinn, 2003; Hendricks et al., 2003; Meisinger et al., 2009). For example, Shankweiler et al. (1999) found that only 2.5% of a sample of 361 students between 2nd and 4th grades fit the criteria of word callers. Even students who could be classified as word callers barely fit the criteria. Their word identification skills were not exceptional and further, not as highly developed as the word identification skills of the proficient readers used for comparison in the study (Shankweiler et al., 1999). One would expect that true word callers would have word identification ability similar to proficient readers.

The current study asked teachers to categorize 3rd and 4th grade students as proficient readers, struggling readers, or word callers. The students were assessed on their word identification and comprehension abilities, vocabulary, and working memory to determine the characteristics of the teacher-identified word callers and whether there were any actual word callers in the sample.

No students could be classified as word callers, based on theoretical criteria. The teacher-identified word callers' performance on the tasks made them appear to be another variety of struggling reader. Teachers were interviewed to determine how they categorized their students and what interventions they would provide for word callers and struggling readers. Analyses revealed that teachers had multiple strategies to assist struggling readers, but fewer well-developed strategies for improving word callers' reading abilities.


CAAS; CLPT; Comprehension; Reading (Elementary); Reading comprehension; Reading – Remedial teaching; School children; Short-term memory; Verbal efficiency; Working memory


Educational Methods | Educational Psychology | Liberal Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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