Gains in reading and spelling across one academic year: A unidirectional relation between reading and spelling for children in early elementary school

Gains in reading and spelling across one academic year: A unidirectional relation between reading and spelling for children in early elementary school

First Author: Pierre Cormier -- Universite de Moncton
Additional authors/chairs: 
Nicole J. Conrad
Keywords: Spelling, Reading, Longitudinal
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose – This study tested theoretically derived predictions about the unidirectional (Firth, 1985) or bidirectional (Perfetti, 1987) relationship between reading and spelling. A moderate to strong correlation exists between these two skills across the elementary school years (Ehri, 1997; Olson, 2018). To disentangle this relationship, this study targeted a key period of reading and spelling acquisition, Grades 2-3, with a longitudinal cross-lagged design.

Method - Children in Grades 2 (n= 85) and 3 (n= 34) completed measures of word reading and word spelling at the beginning of their school year (Time 1) and one year later (Time 2). Control measures of phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge, vocabulary, and non-verbal reasoning were also assessed.

Results – Multiple hierarchical regressions tested the cross-lagged relations between reading and spelling beyond the control measures. Both multiple regressions were highly significantly, R2 = 0,80, F (6, 112) = 74,83, p < 0,001 for spelling and , R2 = 0,77, F (6, 112) = 63,00, p < 0,001 for reading. Time 1 spelling (autoregressor) and reading were significant predictors of Time 2 spelling, β’s = 0,42 and 0,49, respectively, t’s (112) > 6,00, p’s < 0,001. However, Time 2 word reading was significantly predicted by its autoregressor only, Time 1 word reading, β = 0,87, t (112) = 10,50, p < 0,001. Time 1 spelling failed to reach statistical significance, β = 0,05, t (112) = 0,61, p > 0,50.

Conclusions – The relationship between reading and spelling is asymmetric at the transition between Grades 2 and 4, with reading skill contributing to gains in spelling, but not the other way around.