Dr. Holly Joseph (Associate Professor of Language Education and Literacy Development, University of Reading) and Dr. Daisy Powell (Associate Professor in the Psychology of Written Language, University of Reading) jointly won the University of Reading’s Institute of Education (IoE) 2021 Research Output Awards. The Awards are given each year to IoE members of staff whose research output is making a valuable contribution to knowledge, as assessed by the IoE Research Committee. It is assessed on its originality, rigour and significance. Details of the past award winners can be found here.

Details of the winning research outputs can be found below:


Joseph, H., Wonnacott, E., & Nation, K. (2021). Online inference making and comprehension monitoring in children during reading: Evidence from eye movements. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(7), 1202-1224. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747021821999007

Inference generation and comprehension monitoring are essential elements of successful reading comprehension. While both improve with age and reading development, little is known about when and how children make inferences and monitor their comprehension during the reading process itself. Over two experiments, we monitored the eye movements of two groups of children (age 8–13years) as they read short passages and answered questions that tapped local (Experiment 1) and global (Experiment 2) inferences. To tap comprehension monitoring, the passages contained target words which were consistent or inconsistent with the context. Comprehension question location was also manipulated with the question appearing before or after the passage. Children made local inferences during reading, but the evidence was less clear for global inferences. Children were sensitive to inconsistencies that relied on the generation of an inference, consistent with successful comprehension monitoring, although this was seen only very late in the eye movement record. Although question location had a large effect on reading times, it had no effect on global comprehension in one experiment and reading the question first had a detrimental effect in the other. We conclude that children appear to prioritise efficiency over completeness when reading, generating inferences spontaneously only when they are necessary for establishing a coherent representation of the text.

For more information on Dr. Joseph’s research interests, visit her staff profile page here.


Powell, D., & Atkinson, L. (2021). Unraveling the links between rapid automatized naming (RAN), phonological awareness, and reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 113(4), 706–718. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000625

It is well established that phonological awareness (PA) and rapid automatized naming (RAN) tasks reliably predict children’s developing word reading abilities across a wide range of languages. However, existing research has not yet demonstrated unequivocally whether RAN and PA are independently and causally linked to reading, nor has it fully explored the underlying cognitive mechanisms. Most existing research has assessed PA and RAN in children who may already have some reading skill, making direction of influence hard to ascertain. To address this, the current longitudinal research initially assessed RAN and PA in a very young sample of 91 English children (M age = 3 years 11 months; SD = 3.7 months) demonstrated to be nonreaders. Children were reassessed on RAN, PA, and word-level reading at 18 months (Time 2) and then a further year later (Time 3). To explore underlying mechanisms, separate measures of reading accuracy and fluency were taken, and reading tasks varied according to the extent to which they required alphabetic decoding and lexical, orthographic knowledge. Path analyses revealed that from Time 1 to Time 2, both RAN and PA predicted word reading, indicating temporal precedence, though there was some degree of reciprocity in these relationships. However, by Time 3, while RAN still predicted accuracy and fluency of reading, PA only predicted reading accuracy. Furthermore, findings suggested that while RAN was robustly related to both alphabetic decoding and lexical, orthographic aspects of reading, PA’s relationship was restricted to alphabetic decoding accuracy. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

For more information on Dr. Powell’s research interests, visit her staff profile page here.