Impact of lip-reading on speech perception in French-speaking children at risk for reading failure assessed from age 5 to 7


  • Piquard-Kipffer Agnès
  • Cavadini Thalia
  • Sprenger-Charolles Liliane
  • Gentaz Edouard


  • Reading acquisition
  • Pre-reading skills
  • Lip reading
  • Phonemic discrimination
  • Phonemic segmentation
  • Syllabic segmentation
  • Longitudinal design
  • Likely-a-mask condition

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Using facial gestures (especially lip reading) is known to improve speech comprehension. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, most teachers wear masks. This can affect learning to read, especially for children with poor phonemic discrimination skills. In this study, a group of children at risk for reading failure and a not at risk group were assessed from age 5 to 7. These two groups were formed according to their scores on a phonemic discrimination test at age 5: the "Atrisk group" (N = 39) and the "Not-at-risk group" (N = 46). To test the effect of not being able to rely on lip reading on the phonemic test, a syllabic counting task was given to the same groups of children at age 5 and 7 under two conditions: with the possibility to read lips or without (the stimuli were either pronounced by the experimenter or pre-recorded with no visual component). The results revealed a positive effect of lipreading condition only for the at-risk group at both ages, with scores which remained similar over time. By contrast, scores for the not-at-risk group increased between the two ages, whatever the lipreading condition. These results suggest that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in which teachers wear masks, this condition may interfere with learning to read for children at risk due to poor phonemic discrimination skills.

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