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The relationship of handwriting ability and literacy in kindergarten: a systematic review

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Evidence supports a link between handwriting and aspects of literacy, including both reading and writing. Most evidence, however, pertains to children from grade one and above, once foundation skills known to support emerging literacy have been established. The purpose of this systematic review is to synthesise the extant literature concerning measurement of handwriting and literacy and the relationships between these measures for kindergarten students (the first year of formal instruction). Following a systematic search of the literature, 17 studies involving 3343 participants were identified. Handwriting measures could be grouped into two categories—letter writing fluency and perceptual motor skills, while literacy measures addressed one or more of letter name and sound knowledge, phonological skills, word reading, writing composition, and spelling. Strong evidence was found for the impact of letter writing fluency on writing composition, and letter name and sound knowledge. In addition, there was moderate evidence for a relationship between letter writing fluency, spelling, word reading and phonological skills. Weaker evidence was found for the impact of perceptual motor skill proficiency on letter knowledge and spelling, word reading and phonological skills. However, as all intervention approaches focusing on letter forming fluency included perceptual motor skill practice or exposure, an important role for perceptual motor skill in both letter writing fluency and literacy may be inferred. This review has found preliminary evidence to support the facilitating impact of handwriting on the foundations of literacy in kindergarten. Further research into the effects of handwriting interventions on kindergarten literacy is indicated.

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The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and publication of this article.

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The first author conceived the idea for the article, and performed the literature search. The data analysis was conducted by all five authors. The first author drafted the article and the second and third author critically revised the work.

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Correspondence to Karen Ray.

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See Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3 Groupings for handwriting and literacy used in included studies
Table 4 Risk of Bias Rating—Johns Hopkins Evidence Based Practice

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Ray, K., Dally, K., Rowlandson, L. et al. The relationship of handwriting ability and literacy in kindergarten: a systematic review. Read Writ 35, 1119–1155 (2022).

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