The Unique Role of Cognitive Flexibility in Chinese Reading Acquisition among Hong Kong Preschooler

Project: Research project

Project Details


Learning to read is a complex process that requires one to flexibly manage multiple features of print (e.g., orthography, sound, meaning). Among all languages, Chinese is an opaque language that has extremely complicated mappings among the features of print. A high level of flexibility is thereby demanded for processing these features. Despite this challenge, children in Hong Kong start to learn reading Chinese words early at preschool ages (4 to 6 years old). Cognitive flexibility (CF) – defined as the mental ability to manage multiple dimensions of a stimulus at one time and actively switch between them during a task performance – is thus hypothesized to play a significant role in preschool reading. It is known that CF emerges in children at age 4 when they begin able to manage multiple dimensions of objects (e.g., color-shape flexibility); however, whether Chinese preschoolers further develop reading-specific CF (e.g., sound-meaning flexibility) remains largely unknown. Furthermore, the role of CF in Chinese word reading acquisition, as well as whether it is a key to reading success, have yet been examined. The current project takes the initiative to examine the unique contribution and underlying mechanism of CF in word reading skills among Chinese preschoolers. In addition to prove the theoretical significance of CF, the current project also aims to demonstrate the practical effectiveness of CF training in improving Chinese word reading skills. These will be achieved by two empirical studies – a cross-sectional correlational study (Study 1, 200 participants) and an interventional training study (Study 2, 150 participants) – with Chinese preschool children aged 5 to 6. In study 1, a path model regarding the structural relationship among CF, linguistic skills, and word reading in Chinese will be constructed using path analysis method. One major focus of the model will be on testing whether CF has a direct path to word reading via facilitating the flexible use of sound-meaning information of words. In Study 2, a total of five experimental groups will be administered in which participants will receive different trainings on CF and/or other controlled skills. The study will demonstrate the cause-and-effect relationship between CF and word reading, as well as provide practical evidence that CF training is effective. Overall, the findings of the two studies have important practical implications for early diagnostic assessment and reading instruction for Chinese preschool children.

Funding Source: RGC - Early Career Scheme (ECS)
Effective start/end date01/01/1830/06/20


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.