Theoretical Explanations for Preschoolers' Lowercase Alphabet Knowledge PurposeLetter knowledge is a key aspect of children’s language development, yet relatively little research has aimed to understand the nature of lowercase letter knowledge. We considered 4 hypotheses about children’s lowercase letter knowledge simultaneously—uppercase familiarity, uppercase-lowercase similarity, own-name advantage, and frequency in printed English—as well as 3 interactions.MethodParticipants were 461 ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2010
Theoretical Explanations for Preschoolers' Lowercase Alphabet Knowledge
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Khara L. Pence Turnbull
    Washington, DC
  • Ryan P. Bowles
    Michigan State University, East Lansing
  • Lori E. Skibbe
    Michigan State University, East Lansing
  • Laura M. Justice
    The Ohio State University, Columbus
  • Alice K. Wiggins
    University of Virginia, Charlottesville
  • Contact author: Ryan P. Bowles, Department of Psychology, 298C Psychology Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1116. E-mail: bowlesr@msu.edu.
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language
Article   |   December 01, 2010
Theoretical Explanations for Preschoolers' Lowercase Alphabet Knowledge
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2010, Vol. 53, 1757-1768. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0093)
History: Received May 12, 2009 , Revised December 2, 2009 , Accepted April 30, 2010
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2010, Vol. 53, 1757-1768. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0093)
History: Received May 12, 2009; Revised December 2, 2009; Accepted April 30, 2010
Web of Science® Times Cited: 8

PurposeLetter knowledge is a key aspect of children’s language development, yet relatively little research has aimed to understand the nature of lowercase letter knowledge. We considered 4 hypotheses about children’s lowercase letter knowledge simultaneously—uppercase familiarity, uppercase-lowercase similarity, own-name advantage, and frequency in printed English—as well as 3 interactions.

MethodParticipants were 461 children ranging in age from 3 to 5 years, all of whom attended public preschool programs serving primarily children from low-income homes, who completed a letter naming task.

ResultsUppercase familiarity was the strongest predictor of children’s lowercase alphabet knowledge; children were more than 16 times more likely to know a lowercase letter if they knew the corresponding uppercase letter. Uppercase-lowercase similarity and frequency in printed English also predicted children’s lowercase letter knowledge, as did the interaction between uppercase familiarity and own-name advantage and the interaction between uppercase familiarity and uppercase-lowercase similarity.

ConclusionsFindings suggest that transference from uppercase letter knowledge may be a primary mechanism for lowercase letter knowledge and that young children’s knowledge of the lowercase alphabet letters is multiply determined.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences Grants R305J030084, R324A080037, and R305A080459. We thank Elizabeth Hodgson for her assistance with database creation. We are also grateful to the many children, families, teachers, and program administrators who have assisted us with collecting the data presented in this work.
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