An Examination of Three Predictors of Literacy for Preschool-Aged Children
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To be a functional member of society, learning to read is essential. In order t~ place children in level-appropriate learning environments, it is considered important by experts in the educational field to gauge these skills with empirical assessments. Prevalent methods of assessing children's literacy have relied on measures of letter knowledge, the ability to write one's name, the ability to regulate one's own behavior, phonological processing abilities, and oral language skills. This study addresses the validity of three generally held predictors of preschool literacy: name writing, alphabet knowledge, and behavioral self-regulation. Research assistants assessed 71 preschoolers from two laboratory schools in Michigan on these three skills at the beginning of the school year, and assessed their Woodcock-Johnson letter-word identification scores at the end of the school year. Results showed that alphabet knowledge was a valid predictor of literacy, whereas name writing and behavioral self-regulation were not. These findings both bolster and weaken some widely held beliefs about children's literacy; they support the extensively documented notion that in order for preschoolers to process text on a page, letter knowledge is essential. However, they refute recent findings that behavioral self-regulation -- the ability to process direction and correct one's own physical behavior -- as well as the ability to write one's own name are key to learning t~ read. These results indicate that we must reevaluate our previously held notions about children's ability to read, and they also suggest that it is important to support these basic skills early in order to produce a literate and competent generation.