Recitation and listening to nursery rhymes in the familiarization with a literacy language in kindergarteners: Not kids’ stuff.

Hazar Eghbaria-Ghanamah, Rafat Ghanamah, Yasmin Shalhoub-Awwad, Esther Adi-Japha, Avi Karni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large linguistic distance exists between spoken Arabic and the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) the literary language (a diglosia). Novice readers, therefore, struggle with the complex orthography of Arabic as well as the mastering of MSA. Here, we tested whether structured activities in MSA would advance kindergarteners’ MSA aptitude by the end of the school year. We examined two issues: (a) whether reciting nursery rhymes in MSA would be more effective in promoting language and preliteracy skills in kindergarteners compared to listening to the same texts, and (b) whether there are additional advantages for using texts directly referring to the alphabet. Thus, 136 kindergarteners (Mage = 5:6; 61 girls), all native speakers of Arabic and with middle-low socioeconomic background, were assigned to a 10-session (2 months) program in 1 of 4 intervention conditions wherein nursery rhymes related/not related to the alphabet, were either repeatedly recited or listened to. The achievements of children in the intervention conditions were compared to those of peers that were given nonlinguistic activity of similar length (control). The four intervention groups improved their performance at the postintervention assessment in all tests of MSA aptitude and outperformed the control group in receptive and expressive vocabulary and listening comprehension. Also, the reciting groups were better than the control and listening groups in tests assessing vocabulary and morpho-syntactic sensitivity. Our results highlight the contribution of structured interventions based on rhyme repetition to MSA proficiency of kindergarteners. Moreover, the results suggest that reciting may be superior to listening in advancing language proficiency in preschoolers.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2195-2211
Number of pages17
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number12
Early online date26 Oct 2020
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comprehension
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Tests
  • Literacy
  • Vocabulary
  • intervention
  • language abilities
  • literary language
  • nursery rhymes
  • recitation/listening

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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