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Cognitive, linguistic and print-related predictors of preschool children's word spelling and name writing

Preschool children begin to represent spoken language in print long before receiving formal instruction in spelling and writing. The current study sought to identify the component skills that contribute to preschool children's ability to begin to spell words and write their name. Ninety-five preschool children (mean age=57 months) completed a battery of cognitive, linguistic, as well as print-related measures, including spelling/writing tasks (i.e. letters, words and name). All writing samples were scored using scoring matrices and inter-rater reliability was 90% and above. Hierarchical linear regression was conducted for word spelling, indicating that after controlling for age and IQ, the model of best fit included expressive vocabulary, working memory, blending, letter naming and letter writing ability. Logistic regression was conducted for name writing, indicating that the model that included age, expressive vocabulary, letter naming and letter writing identified preschool children who wrote their name conventionally and those who could not. Letter writing explained unique variance in both word spelling and name writing, and phonological awareness explained unique variance in word spelling only. These findings suggest that different processes underlie word spelling and name writing, supporting the consideration of a dual-route model of children's early spelling and writing ability. (author abstract)
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