Fine motor skills (FMS) are among the most studied nonlinguistic factors influencing early literacy acquisition. Although developmental studies have often supported the presence of a relationship between FMS and emergent literacy, the underlying mechanisms have not always been adequately explored. In this study, we used structural equation modeling to investigate the longitudinal relationship between FMS in kindergarten and reading and spelling in first grade among 212 Arabic-speaking children. We also used structural equation modeling to examine the contribution of executive functions (EFs) measures as the possible mediators of this relationship. The first structural equation model suggested that FMS (assessed by the functional dexterity test, copying letters, and pure copying) at kindergarten was a significant predictor (β = 0.33, p < 0.05) of literacy achievement (assessed by spelling and reading words and pseudowords) in first grade. The second structural equation model suggested that EFs measures (as assessed by The Head–Toes–Knees–Shoulders self-regulation task and the digit-span forward and backward tests) fully mediated the relation between FMS and reading and spelling in the first grade. Results of the bootstrap method also supported the statistically significant effect of FMS on reading and spelling achievement through EFs, 95% CI [0.182, 0.802]. This study emphasizes the importance of screening young children with non-academic and non-language-based measures in order to identify the factors underlying difficulties with reading and spelling.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was partially supported by the ISF grant 2695/19 to AK and by Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities. We have no financial or non-financial interests conflict of interest to disclose.
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.
- Early literacy
- Executive functions
- Fine motor skills
- First grade
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Linguistics and Language
- Speech and Hearing