How Can You Help Your Young Reader? The Key May Be Spelling—Even if it is Misspelled

posted: 05/15/17
by: Amanda Mushro
Little girl reading with dad

As the school year wraps up and teachers and parents look to summer activities to keep their kids from suffering from the summer slide, young readers will probably receive flashcards for site words. These are words that are commonly used in beginner reading books and often young readers are encouraged to memorize these words as they begin to learn reading fundamentals. However, one study suggests if we really want to help our kindergarteners read, we put down the site word flash cards and tell them to grab a pencil and paper instead.

A new study found that invented or creative spelling - rather than correct spelling of a word - has a bigger impact on a child's reading development than learning the alphabet or simply memorizing sight words. So if you received a note from your child where the words were misspelled such as "Mom is grat" instead of "Mom is great," your kids are actually on the right track.

For this study, about 170 children, who were in their first year of school, were assessed on oral vocabulary, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading and invented spelling. After a year, researchers reevaluated these students to access their reading and spelling skills. What researchers founds was while all of the activities that were practiced in school were beneficial, it was encouraging kids to write early and often and to use invented spelling was the key to reading development.

If you are tempted to spell the words out for your children when they practice writing, don't do it! Researchers say you don't need to worry that encouraging your child to write words incorrectly will somehow negatively impact their spelling ability. The study says there is correlation from invented spelling in kindergarten to correct spelling and improved reading scores in first grade.

If your child is spelling the word cat, chances are they will get the first letter and the last but the letter in the middle may be dropped or replaced by a different letter, but after practice, students will learn that cat is actually spelled cat.

Creative spelling is actually a win/win for everyone. Your child is practicing skills needed for reading and you get sweet, misspelled notes from your kids that will melt your heart and make you giggle.