Kannada akshara knowledge in primary school children: Measurement of accuracy and reaction time using a cross-sectional study design

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Background: Reading acquisition varies between languages, as languages differ in terms of phonology and orthography. Orthographic knowledge is demonstrated to be crucial in literacy acquisition in most orthographies. The literature on acquisition of orthographic knowledge has focused more on alphabetic orthographies and less is understood in alphasyllabary Kannada language. The present study aimed to understand the akshara knowledge acquisition by measuring akshara identification accuracy and reaction time in typically developing Kannada medium primary school children. Methods: The study consisted of 315 typically developing children, 45 each from Grade I through Grade VII between the age range of 5 years 6 months to 12 years 6 months. The children were assessed for akshara identification accuracy and reaction time using a representative sample of 67 akshara selected at four different levels of complexity: vowels in primary form, consonant with inherent vowels, consonant with vowel diacritics, and consonant clusters. The mean performance was compared between the groups using one-way ANOVA with post-hoc Bonferroni test. Results: One-way ANOVA revealed significant main effect (p≤0.05) of Grade on akshara identification accuracy and reaction time. The post-hoc Bonferroni test revealed that the mean akshara identification accuracy improved significantly (p≤0.05) from Grade I to Grade V and reached a plateau at Grade VI. The reaction time significantly reduced from Grade I to Grade IV and there was no significant change beyond Grade V. Conclusion: The children learning to read alphasyllabary Kannada gain mastery over the majority of aksharas during the initial years of formal schooling, which develops completely by Grade VI. The automaticity in naming akshara develops gradually and reaches a plateau by Grade IV. The present findings indicate that children acquire automaticity in naming akshara early, while the akshara knowledge continues to develop.



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