Early literacy among Zambian second graders: The role of adult mediation of word writing in Bemba

Sylvia Chanda KALINDI, Catherine MCBRIDE, Dan LIN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Considering the importance attached to writing as a life skill, this study investigated the nature and variability of adults’ aid to Zambian second graders in the context of shared writing in Bemba (first language), and the relations between this support and students’ literacy and cognitive-metalinguistic skills. Fifty-seven children and their caregivers were videotaped while writing word items in Bemba. To document the adults’ literate mediation (i.e., letter–sound correspondences) and print mediation (i.e., letter formation), the adult support was coded at the letter level, and demand for precision mediation (i.e., expectation for correcting writing errors) was coded at the word level. Results revealed that the adults provided diverse but mostly low-level support for literate and print mediation dimensions. In contrast, the adults also provided high-level support for the demand for precision dimension. Overall, adult literate support uniquely explained children's word reading and writing, including orthographic awareness and alphabet sound knowledge, and print support explained children's alphabet knowledge and orthographic awareness. Furthermore, demand for precision support was also linked to students’ word reading and phonological awareness. Thus, despite providing low-level writing support, adult support was associated with children's literacy and language-related skills. The results also underscore the potential importance of caregivers as literacy resources to enhance acquisition of literacy skills in an orthography and region not commonly investigated (i.e., Bemba in sub-Saharan Africa). Copyright © 2017 International Literacy Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-27
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018




Kalindi, S. C., McBride, C., & Lin, D. (2018). Early literacy among Zambian second graders: The role of adult mediation of word writing in Bemba. Reading Research Quarterly, 53(1), 7-27. doi: 10.1002/rrq.180


  • Decoding
  • Family literacy
  • Language learners
  • Phonics, phonemic awareness, phonological awareness
  • Strategies, methods, and materials
  • Theoretical perspectives
  • Writing
  • Early childhood