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Specialization and Universals in the Development of Reading Skill: How Chinese Research Informs a Universal Science of Reading


Perfetti CCharles , Cao FFan , Booth JJames . Scientific studies of reading. 2013 ; 17(1). 5-21


Understanding Chinese reading is important for identifying the universal aspects of reading, separated from those aspects that are specific to alphabetic writing or to English in particular. Chinese and alphabetic writing make different demands on reading and learning to read, despite reading procedures and their supporting brain networks that are partly universal. Learning to read accommodates the demands of a writing system through the specialization of brain networks that support word identification. This specialization increases with reading development, leading to differences in the brain networks for alphabetic and Chinese reading. We suggest that beyond reading procedures that are partly universal and partly writing-system specific, functional reading universals arise across writing systems in their adaptation to human cognitive abilities.