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Niklas, Frank ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3777-7388 and Schneider, Wolfgang (2013): Home Literacy Environment and the beginning of reading and spelling. In: Contemporary Educational Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 1: pp. 40-50

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Reading and writing are necessary prerequisites for a successful school career. Therefore it is important to identify precursor variables which predict these abilities early in order to identify children possibly at risk of developing reading or spelling difficulties. Relevant precursors include letter knowledge, phonological awareness (PA), vocabulary, and cognitive abilities. Moreover, also social aspects such as the socioeconomic status of the family (SES), the migration background and the “Home Literacy Environment” (HLE) are of importance. So far, only a few studies are available which analyse the early development of different possible explanatory factors simultaneously in the years before and after school enrolment. In particular, the relative impact of HLE on early and later linguistic competencies in a German context remains unclear. Thus, in our longitudinal study, covering the period from kindergarten to Grade 1, we focused on the role HLE plays in the development of language competencies of 921 German children, compared to the impact of several other important variables.

The results highlight the importance of HLE for the development of linguistic competencies also for a German context. HLE was not only a good predictor of early vocabulary and PA, but additionally directly influenced PA at the beginning of primary school. Moreover, HLE acted as a mediator between SES and migration background on the one hand and the precursors on the other hand. This finding indicates that research and policy should focus more on the learning environments in families to improve children’s achievement.

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