Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Communication Sciences and Disorders

Committee Chair

Brenda L. Beverly, Ph.D.


The development of emergent literacy, a precursor to formal reading, has been linked to subsequent conventional literacy skills in Chinese children. The factors important for acquiring Chinese reading skills, such as phonological and morphological awareness, have primarily been studied in primary school children rather than preschoolers. The complete picture of factors contributing to early reading skills in Mandarin-speaking Chinese preschool children remains unclear. Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore emergent literacy and early reading skills in preschool and early school-aged children and investigate the connections between them to address gaps in existing literature. Methodology: A cross-sectional design was used to collect data from a sample of 66 children, including 35 in their second year of kindergarten and 31 first-grade children. Assessments were conducted on phonological awareness (syllable deletion), morphological awareness (lexical compounding, homophone judgment, and homophone generation), orthographic awareness (character judgment), vocabulary, and rapid automatized naming (RAN) of numbers. Reading outcomes were measured by character naming and word recognition. Results: The MANOVA findings showed a significant grade group effect on all measures, except for RAN accuracy. Specifically,first-grade children outperformed second-year kindergarten children in syllable deletion, lexical compounding, homophone generation, homophone judgment, character judgment, and vocabulary. Additionally, first-grade children named numbers faster than kindergarten children in RAN. The correlation and regression analyses suggest that advanced emergent literacy skills in children improve word reading, but the associations between emergent literacy and reading vary by grade level. Syllable deletion and lexical compounding are particularly important for kindergarten children at the initial stage of learning to read, while character judgment plays a prominent role in the reading development of primary school children. Homophone judgment develops early and expands progressively as children gain reading experience during their primary school years. The significance of homophone generation is minimal at preschool and early school ages. RAN response time may provide more informative insights than RAN accuracy, and the link between RAN and reading skills appears to weaken once children begin schooling. Additionally, maternal education level was a significant co-variate associated with character naming in preschool children. Implications: Findings carry implications for Chinese educators and parents. Incorporating metalinguistic awareness into classroom instruction can support children’s early reading development. Moreover, parents are encouraged to foster a literacy-rich home environment through experiences like interactive reading and character recognition, especially for preschool children without formal literacy instructions. Further longitudinal research is recommended to predict early reading skills in a larger sample of Mandarin-speaking preschoolers and establish age-specific educational goals.