Maternal mediation of writing and children's early spelling and reading: The Semitic abjad versus the European alphabet

Iris Levin*, Dorit Aram, Liliana Tolchinsky, Catherine McBride

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal writing mediation and children's literacy were analysed in two writing systems; the Semitic abjad and the European alphabet. Forty Israeli Hebrew-speaking and 43 Spanish-speaking mother-child dyads participated in this study. The children, aged: M=68.58 months, had not yet been exposed to formal reading instruction. Israeli kindergartners embark on their initial steps in reading and spelling in an abjad - a consonantal writing system that deficiently and inconsistently marks vowels by letters. Spanish kindergartners are introduced to a shallow alphabetic writing system that consistently marks consonants and vowels. This study assessed: (1) children's code-based skills (letter knowledge and phonological awareness), spelling, and reading, and (2) mothers' word writing mediation. The groups were basically similar in code-based skills, but the reading and spelling of the Israeli children were substantially lower than those of their Spanish counterparts. Maternal writing mediation was lower among Israeli than Spanish mothers with respect to vowels. Regression analyses showed that children's spelling in Hebrew and in Spanish were predicted by children's code-based skills and by maternal writing mediation. Children's reading in Hebrew was uniquely predicted by code-based skills and in Spanish by maternal writing mediation. This study sheds light on the importance of writing mediation and its relation to writing systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-155
Number of pages22
JournalWriting Systems Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • Abjad
  • Alphabetic writing system
  • Early reading
  • Early spelling
  • Hebrew
  • Orthographic depth
  • Spanish
  • Writing mediation


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