A group of researchers from the University of Iowa (USA), Xiamen University (China) and Fordham University (USA) conducted a meta-analysis on the association between visual skills and Chinese reading acquisition for preprimary and primary students. In order to be included in the review, studies must include preprimary or primary school participants who learned to read the Chinese writing system, were native Chinese speakers, either Mandarin or Cantonese and report at least one correlation between an independent variable measuring visual skills and a dependent variable measuring Chinese reading performance. A total of 34 empirical studies published between 1991 and 2011 met the inclusion criteria and were included in the final analysis.
Results indicated that the global construct of visual skills had an average medium effect size associated with general Chinese reading acquisition (effect size = +0.32), and there were no regional differences between Hong Kong and Mainland China. But differences were found by grade level, namely that the lower the grade level became, the higher the effect sizes of visual skills were displayed.
Among the four components of visual skills that were measured– visual perception, memory, speed and visual-verbal association, the last component (visual-verbal association) had a large correlation effect size with Chinese reading acquisition in both lower grades (effect size = +0.58) and higher grades (effect size = +0.64) while the other three components of visual skills had medium correlations with Chinese reading acquisition, ranging from +0.34 to +0.44 for lower grades and only +0.12 to +0.20 for higher grades.
The research demonstrated that the visual-verbal association can predict Chinese reading ability and suggested future research to understand whether the visual-verbal association is a cause of Chinese reading acquisition .
Source: Yang, L., Guo, J., Richman, L.C., Schmidt, F.L., Gerken, K.C., & Ding, Y. (2013). Visual skills and Chinese reading acquisition: A meta-analysis of correlation evidence. Education Psychology Review ,25, 115–143