Oral language proficiency in kindergarten can facilitate the acquisition of reading and writing. However, in diglossic languages, like Arabic, the large gap between the spoken and the formal, modern standard (MSA) varieties of the language may restrict the benefits of oral language proficiency to subsequent literacy skills. Here, we tested, in a randomized controlled study, whether an intervention program, implemented in kindergarten, that familiarized the children with rhymes presented in MSA through recitation, facilitated reading and spelling in first grade. We also tested whether engaging the children in recitation affords an advantage over repeated listening by itself and whether rhymes directly referring to the alphabet impart additional advantages. The children were assigned to one of four intervention conditions (10 sessions, 2 months) wherein they either recited or repeatedly listened to nursery rhymes that were either related or unrelated to the alphabet, or engaged in nonlinguistic activities (control). A year later, all intervention groups read faster compared to a control group (nonlinguistic activity). The two recitation groups gained in reading accuracy, reading efficiency, and spelling; spelling gains were found also in children who only listened to alphabet-related rhymes. The reciting groups were superior to the listening groups in all study measures (reading and spelling). The results suggest long-term contributions from structured interventions based on oral rhyme repetition, in kindergarten, to reading and spelling in first grade. Vocal recitations in kindergarten can benefit the mastering of literacy skills even in a language that differs from the one spoken in the child’s home.
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- Oral language