Exploring the compensatory pattern of visual-motor integration and working memory for Chinese early literacy skills

Exploring the compensatory pattern of visual-motor integration and working memory for Chinese early literacy skills

First Author: YING WANG -- Tsinghua University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Zhu Lan
Keywords: visual-spatial skills, Working memory, Word reading, Writing, (Chinese) characters
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Visual-motor integration and working memory are considered as well-established predictors of early literacy acquisition, however, little is known about how these two core abilities relate to each other explaining children’s reading and writing, especially in the visually complex Chinese characters.

Method: The present study explored the role of visuomotor integration and working memory during school transition in a middle-income, typically developing sample of children from the third year of kindergarten to Grade 2 (n = 253, mean age = 6.7 years, SD = 0.83). In regression models controlling for age and nonverbal intelligence, we tested the interaction between visuomotor integration (pure copying skills of unfamiliar prints) and working memory (backwards digit span) on Chinese word reading and word writing.

Results: Visual-motor integration explained unique variance in word writing across three grades. While working memory independently explained variance in word reading and writing of children from second grade. More interesting, for the second-grade children, a compensatory pattern of interactions emerged between visual-motor integration and working memory for Chinese word writing. That is, compared with children with both poor visual-motor integration and low working memory, those on the higher at least 1 of these 2 skills performed better on word writing.

Conclusion: Our findings establish that children’s ability to integrate visual and motor skills is important for learning Chinese writing, especially when the important EF component—working memory, is weak. Thus, it implies a novel and creative way to support children’s diverse fundamental skills that enable children to learn early literacy more efficiently.