Name writing and developing reading skills

iStock_000014442615XSmallThe relationship between name writing and early literacy skills was studied recently with kindergarten children. An assessment of name-writing skill was developed and used in this study. Results revealed that name writing was positively related to some reading skills in kindergarten children. No significant gender differences were found, and researchers believe that an assessment of name writing might be helpful in early screening batteries for students at risk for reading difficulties.

Michelle R. Haney and Victor Bissonette, Berry College (Georgia), and Kimberly L. Behnken, Clayton County, Georgia School System, studied 162 kindergarten children in 11 classes in middle-class suburban schools. In the kindergarten screening, girls scored significantly higher than boys on word and pseudo-word identification and on alphabet knowledge. However, there was no significant gender difference on the name-writing assessment. Scoring was based on legibility, having all letters present, correct spelling, capitalization, letter formation, size and spacing of letters, fine-motor control, lack of reversals and writing on the line. Specific criteria were described for scoring each point.

This study revealed that while name writing appears to be related to basic reading skills, it requires something distinct from the three early literacy skills that have been shown to be critical to developing fluid reading: expressive vocabulary knowledge, alphabet knowledge, and phonological awareness. These researchers suggest that name writing may demonstrate knowledge of the alphabetic principle – the understanding that symbols (letters) have a direct association with certain sounds. Until this principle is understood, learning to decode words is impossible and children must rely on memory of whole words they know by sight.

Connection between name writing and basic reading skills

Although Haney et al. were not able to uncover the mechanism underlying name-writing skills in the development of reading, this study demonstrated a significant positive relationship between name writing and basic reading skills.

The Name Writing Scale is currently used only as a research tool. Future studies with more diverse and larger samples of students will determine whether it might be a useful screening instrument to identify children in need of extra help in learning to read. Scoring reliability is fair and may improve with more clearly defined scoring criteria and illustrative examples.

In conclusion, the results of this study support the hypothesis that name-writing skills are related to beginning reading skills but name writing also appears to reflect aspects of emergent literacy distinct from other, well-studied skills, including phonological awareness, expressive vocabulary, and knowing the alphabet. Further research with name writing is needed to provide insight into the mechanism underlying the development of reading skills.

“The Relationship Among Name Writing and Early Literacy Skills in Kindergarten Children”, Child Study Journal, Volume 33, Number 2, December 2003, pp. 99-115.

Published in ERN February 2004 Volume 17 Number 2

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