Cognitive factors relating to the development of early literacy in the kana syllabary

Shinichiro Kakihana, Juko Ando, Maki Koyama, Shoko Iltaka, Izumi Sugawara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Relations between cognitive factors and kana literacy were examined in the present study. Participants were 55 normally developing Japanese children between 3 and 4 years old. The children's literacy abilities were measured with 4 tasks : Letter-sound knowledge, ability to read special syllabic notations (i.e., digraphs, long vowels, and geminate stop consonants), orthographic knowledge of long-vowel words, and reading fluency. To investigate the cognitive factors involved in kana literacy, the children's proficiency was tested the following tasks : Mora awareness, digit span, nonword repetition, receptive vocabulary, and visual-perceptual ability. Although, even after controlling for age, all the cognitive factors were related to the children's letter-sound knowledge, logistic regression analysis revealed that mora awareness was the only significant, independent predictor of letter-sound knowledge. The results on the measure of reading ability of special syllabic notations indicated that only the long-vowel notation differentiated the children's performance with nonword repetitions. Similarly, only the orthographic knowledge of long-vowel words was related to receptive vocabulary. However, when the children's choices of alternative spellings (e.g., satoo for satou) were considered to be correct answers, the task testing the children's orthographic knowledge of long-vowel words turned out to be significantly related to mora awareness, nonword repetition, and visual-perceptual ability tasks. Reading fluency was related not only to the children's performance on the 2 phonological short-term memory tasks (digit span and nonword repetition), but also to their orthographic knowledge of long-vowel words.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalJapanese Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Development of kana syllabary literacy
  • Letter-sound knowledge
  • Mora awareness
  • Preschool children
  • Reading fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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