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O'Brien, Beth Ann
Poon, Kenneth K.
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This dissertation aims to contribute to the field of early child literacy education by investigating the nature of children’s fine motor development. New research suggests that mechanisms involved in fine motor skills play an important role in reading and writing development (Cadoret, 2018; Oberer et al., 2017). Two studies are included in the dissertation. Extending past work that focused on fine motor skills measured in adolescence, study one followed children from Kindergarten 2 (average age of 63.15 months) to Primary 1 (average of 80.85
months) and examined the association of different fine motor skills with reading, following the few studies in this area that suggest visual-spatial integration tasks (e.g. copying) are most closely related to reading performance (Carlson et al., 2013; Suggate et al., 2019). Study two builds on the findings of a positive contribution of fine motor skills to literacy from study one, extending the focus to identifying the specific fine motor skills driving this relationship. In particular, study two examines possible links between copying skills, other under researched aspects of fine motor skills such as grapho-motor (e.g. letter copying) and visuo-motor coordination (e.g. tracing or inserting pegs) and reading and spelling.

Study one includes a new analysis of secondary data from a large sample of K2 Singaporean children assessed longitudinally to P1 for literacy skills such as reading and spelling. Amongst the overall battery of tasks, information on 850 children’s non-verbal intelligence, working memory, inhibitory control and visual-spatial integration skills collected at K2 (Mage = 63.15 months, SD = 3.89) were included in the analysis. Also entered into the analysis were outcome measures collected from a final wave of data collection at the beginning of P1 (Mage = 80.85 months, SD = 3.79), including English language reading and spelling measures. The second study involves primary data collected concurrently for two groups of children at two grade levels.

Study two follows a cross- sectional design with a sample of 45 children attending Nursery 2 (N2) and Kindergarten 2 (K2). Both reading and spelling were assessed as the dependent variables, and visuo-motor coordination plus grapho-motor skills were assessed as the independent, predictor variables. Vocabulary and phonological memory were weighed in as covariates.

The major outcomes of the dissertation suggest: 1) After controlling for age, maternal education, non-verbal intelligence, verbal memory, and inhibitory control, visual-spatial integration explained significant additional variance in reading (6%) and in spelling (2%) performance. 2) Among visual-spatial integration sub-skills, letter copying was found to be the most important factor that influenced reading and spelling development in Primary 1 children. 3) Letter copying skills had a stronger positive relationship with children’s spelling development than inserting pegs. Since most six-year-olds can post coins, thread beads and trace relatively well, there was a ceiling effect on the visuo-motor coordination measure for this age group. These findings have important implications for education, particularly, with respect to the role fine motor processes play in early literacy development in the context of Singapore, where there is less emphasis on non-academic skills even at an early age. Knowing the association of visual-spatial integration, grapho-motor and visuo-motor coordination skills with the two literacy domains suggests potential avenues for improving future pedagogies for early literacy skills.
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BF723.M6 Mal
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Appears in Collections:Master of Arts

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