Spoken language proficiency predicts print-speech convergence in beginning readers

Rebecca A. Marks, Ioulia Kovelman, Olga Kepinska, Myriam Oliver, Zhichao Xia, Stephanie L. Haft, Leo Zekelman, Priscilla Duong, Yuuko Uchikoshi, Roeland Hancock, Fumiko Hoeft*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Learning to read transforms the brain, building on children's existing capacities for language and visuospatial processing. In particular, the development of print-speech convergence, or the spatial overlap of neural regions necessary for both auditory and visual language processing, is critical for literacy acquisition. Print-speech convergence is a universal signature of proficient reading, yet the antecedents of this convergence remain unknown. Here we examine the relationship between spoken language proficiency and the emergence of the print-speech network in beginning readers (ages 5–6). Results demonstrate that children's language proficiency, but not their early literacy skill, explains variance in their print-speech neural convergence in kindergarten. Furthermore, print-speech convergence in kindergarten predicts reading abilities one year later. These findings suggest that children's language ability is a core mechanism guiding the neural plasticity for learning to read, and extend theoretical perspectives on language and literacy acquisition across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116021
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain development
  • Child language
  • Reading acquisition
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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