Language and early literacy evaluation in preschool: A cross-linguistic comparison among Belgian, Italian and Romanian children using the Talk assessment

Majorano, M., Bastianello, T., Bodea-Hategan, C., Fantuzzi, P., Fontana, G., Hoste, E., Lombardi M., Standaert A., Talas, D., Trifu, R., & Vescogni, L., & Persici, V. (2021). Language and early literacy evaluation in preschool: A cross-linguistic comparison among Belgian, Italian and Romanian children using the Talk assessment. Child and Youth Care Forum. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-021-09611-7 

Background. Studies have reported a strong association between children’s early literacy skills at preschool and their reading and writing skills at primary school. However, it is unclear whether this association is affected by language and curriculum practices.

Objective. The study investigates (i) whether early literacy skills are influenced by orthographic consistency and by preschool curriculum, and (ii) how early skills are related to later literacy skills across countries.

Method. Three countries, Italy (n = 73), Romania (n = 65), and Belgium (n = 109) were involved in the study, for a total of 247 children. Language and early literacy in preschool were assessed using a novel assessment tool (the ‘Talk’). Early visual-phonological and manual aspects integration were investigated using rapid automatized naming and grapho-motor tasks. The children’s reading and writing skills nine months later were assessed using standardized tests.

Results. Results showed higher early literacy scores for the groups of children speaking languages with more transparent orthographic systems and for the group taking part in preschool activities designed to enhance literacy acquisition. Later reading and writing skills were predicted by early competences, albeit with differences across countries.

Conclusions. Findings suggest that literacy acquisition trajectories are not only associated with early skills but are also influenced by language characteristics and curriculum practices. The study also presents preliminary findings relative to the ‘Talk’, an assessment tool that may have important implications for early identification and intervention of language and literacy difficulties, as well as for improving cross-country curriculum practices.

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