In a cross-sectional study, we investigated the development of fluent reading and spelling in the first 3 years of learning Arabic. The goals of our study were to: (1) validate suitable measures for fluent reading and spelling in the first 3 years of learning Arabic; (2) trace the developmental course of the relationship between fluent reading and spelling in the first 3 years of learning Arabic; and (3) evaluate potential gender differences in literacy skills and intelligence in the setting. The performance of 111 native Arabic students of the first three grades was assessed for one-minute reading, spelling and Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM). Results showed significant developments in all measures across age. Reading fluency correlated highly with spelling measures. This association was more pronounced in the first but not in later graders. Boys performed better than girls as indicated by each of the measures used. Further analyses of first grade data indicate a potential role for the interaction of reading, gender, and CPM on the spelling scores. Based on our findings, we suggest that, in the Arabic orthography, both alphabetic and orthographic skills are adopted first for spelling. However, developing orthographic strategies in spelling does not guarantee the same transition to fluent reading processes as children in the first 3 years of learning Arabic are not yet exposed to unvowelized scripts forcing the reader to rely on orthographic strategies in order to read fluently. Moreover, our results indicate a potential role of visualization and spatial abilities in the relationship between fluent reading and spelling in the early stages of literacy acquisition, but not in later grades.
- Fluent reading