The speed and accuracy with which 56 skilled or less skilled readers read words in and out of context was assessed in the fall and spring of the 1st grade by having both groups read random lists of words and coherent paragraphs. The context of the coherent paragraph facilitated word recognition performance to a greater degree in the spring than in the fall, and this developmental trend was similar for both groups. Although the word recognition performance of the skilled readers was superior to that of the less skilled readers on the coherent paragraphs, the former were also better at reading random lists of words. Data indicate that the less skilled readers were getting as much contextual facilitation from the coherent paragraph as were the skilled readers when the latter were at a similar level of context-free decoding ability. This finding, combined with other research, indicates that less skilled readers of this age perform relatively poorly on coherent paragraphs because of poor decoding skills, not because of a strategic inability to use context to facilitate word recognition.
Biemiller, A. (1977-78). Relationships between oral reading rates for letters, words, and simple text in the development of reading achievement. Reading Research Quarterly, 13, 223-253.