, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 959-989

Letter names, letter sounds and phonological awareness: an examination of kindergarten children across letters and of letters across children

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In this study 149 kindergarten children were assessed for knowledge of letter names and letter sounds, phonological awareness, and cognitive abilities. Through this it examined child and letter characteristics influencing the acquisition of alphabetic knowledge in a naturalistic context, the relationship between letter-sound knowledge and letter-name knowledge, and the prediction of Grade 1 phonological awareness and word identification from these variables. Knowledge of letter sounds was better for vowels and for letters with consonant–vowel names than for those with vowel–consonant names or names bearing little relationship to their sounds. However, there were anomalies within each category reflecting characteristics of the individual letters. Structural equation modelling showed that cognitive ability, comprising receptive vocabulary, non-verbal reasoning, rapid automatized naming of colours, and phonological memory significantly contributed to alphabetic knowledge and phonological awareness. In turn, letter-name knowledge but not phonological awareness predicted letter-sound knowledge and subsequent reading skill.

This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the first author. Thank you is extended to the participating schools and children and to Ian Newby-Clark for his orientation to AMOS. Michelle Bell, Shelly Moretti and Jodi Page have since graduated from the University of Guelph