This is a three year project designed to identify sources of reading and writing difficulty for students in adult basic education (ABE) programs. According to the 2013 OECD survey, a significant number of adults struggle to read at a level adequate to function effectively in our society. The problem of adult illiteracy has a significant negative impact on job acquisition, civic participation, and informed access to healthcare. Not surprisingly, the small but growing body of research on this population of readers suggests that their reading behavior differs in significant ways from that of children matched on reading achievement. Unfortunately, the basic research foundation upon which to build assessment and intervention tools targeted to the unique characteristics of adults learning to read is still greatly impoverished in relation to what is known about children learning to read (NICHD, 2001). Thus, much of the intervention and assessment material used in ABE programs is based upon what we know about children. This project will expand the basic research foundation necessary to build effective assessment and intervention programs targeted to the specific needs of this population. This project will compare the reading and writing behavior of two groups of participants (adults with less than a 7th grade reading level who are currently enrolled in ABE programs and children who are matched on reading ability). Both groups will be matched on socio-economic factors and ethnic and racial background. While phonological awareness is seen by many as the most important aspect of literacy acquisition, the English system of writing is not purely alphabetic, rather, it is morphophonemic; words are represented in writing according to their meanings as well as the way they sound. Thus, this project will focus on the contributions of morphological factors as they relate to reading and writing development. Furthermore, morphology has been identified as one component of vocabulary depth. Depth refers to how much we know about particular words compared to breadth which is how many words we know. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of morphology in vocabulary depth. We will use a multi-skills approach to understand how morphological awareness and other aspects of vocabulary depth contribute to reading comprehension, visual word recognition in silent reading while eye movements are monitored, and writing in these two groups of learners. Performance across the two groups will be compared to gain a more detailed understanding of the unique characteristics of the adult learning to read.

Public Health Relevance

The problem of adult illiteracy serves as a barrier to health care and social support services. Adults are likely to encounter a number of health literacy tasks in their daily lives: fill a prescription, read preventative health articles, understand health insurance forms, and tend to their children?s health care. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy specifically addressed health literacy in their survey and found that 49% of adults who did not graduate from high school scored in the Below Basic category of health literacy compared to 15% who did have a high school diploma and 3% who graduated from college.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Miller, Brett
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Mount Holyoke College
Schools of Arts and Sciences
South Hadley
United States
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Binder, Katherine S; Cote, Nicole Gilbert; Lee, Cheryl et al. (2017) Beyond breadth: The contributions of vocabulary depth to reading comprehension among skilled readers. J Res Read 40:333-343
To, Nancy L; Tighe, Elizabeth L; Binder, Katherine S (2016) Investigating morphological awareness and the processing of transparent and opaque words in adults with low literacy skills and in skilled readers. J Res Read 39:171-188
Bangs, Kathryn E; Binder, Katherine S (2016) Morphological Awareness Intervention: Improving Spelling, Vocabulary, and Reading Comprehension for Adult Learners. J Res Pract Adult Lit Second Basic Educ 5:49-56
Fracasso, Lucille E; Bangs, Kathryn; Binder, Katherine S (2016) The Contributions of Phonological and Morphological Awareness to Literacy Skills in the Adult Basic Education Population. J Learn Disabil 49:140-51
Tighe, Elizabeth L; Binder, Katherine S (2015) An investigation of morphological awareness and processing in adults with low literacy. Appl Psycholinguist 36:245-273
Binder, Katherine S; Magnus, Brooke; Lee, Cheryl et al. (2015) To tell a morphologically complex tale: investigating the story-telling abilities of children and adults with low literacy skills. Read Writ 28:1029-1049
Talwar, Amani; Cote, Nicole Gilbert; Binder, Katherine S (2014) Investigating Predictors of Spelling Ability for Adults with Low Literacy Skills. J Res Pract Adult Lit Second Basic Educ 3:35-50
Binder, Katherine S; Tighe, Elizabeth; Jiang, Yue et al. (2013) Reading Expressively and Understanding Thoroughly: An Examination of Prosody in Adults with Low Literacy Skills. Read Writ 26:665-680
Herman, Julia; Cote, Nicole Gilbert; Reilly, Lenore et al. (2013) Literacy Skill Differences between Adult Native English and Native Spanish Speakers. J Res Pract Adult Lit Second Basic Educ 2:147
Binder, Katherine S; Lee, Cheryl; College, Mount Holyoke (2012) Reader Profiles for Adults with Low Literacy Skills: A Quest to Find Resilient Readers. J Res Pract Adult Lit Second Basic Educ 1:78-90