Invented Spelling Can Be Both Positively and Negatively Related to Letter-Name Knowledge for English Non-readers

Invented Spelling Can Be Both Positively and Negatively Related to Letter-Name Knowledge for English Non-readers

First Author: Roderick Barron -- University of Guelph
Additional authors/chairs: 
Emily Ward
Keywords: Spelling, Letter knowledge, Emergent literacy, young readers, Alphabetic writing
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: The letter-name knowledge of English speaking children consists of the name of the letter and the sound or sounds associated with that letter yet these two components have not been distinguished as predictors of children’s early literacy skill such as invented spelling. Letter-name knowledge is central in the production of invented spellings and we asked if the well established positive relationship between letter-name knowledge and individual differences in invented spelling is maintained when children know the names of the letters but do not know their corresponding sounds.
Method: 129 non-readers (CA= 67.88 months; mean raw Woodcock Word ID = 1.14, Word Attack = 0.14) named letters and orally produced the sounds associated with those letters. Phonological awareness was assessed with oddity and phoneme deletion tasks. WRAT-math and WPPSI IQ assessed cognitive ability. Individual differences in invented spelling were assessed with measures adapted from Tangel and Blachman (1992, 1995).
Results: With cognitive ability and phonological awareness controlled in hierarchical regression, letter-name knowledge was uniquely and positively related to invented spelling when that knowledge consisted of both names and sounds (Rsq. change = .14, final beta = +.52). The relationship between letter-name knowledge and invented spelling skill was negative, however, when letter-name knowledge consisted of names but not sounds, reversing the usual findings (Rsq. change = .031, final beta = -.18).
Discussion: Letter-name knowledge is often distinguished from letter-sound knowledge in invented spelling (Read, 1971) but these results suggest that it may be a combined representation of name and sound knowledge that is critical and that children can access either type of knowledge during the process of retrieving a letter that captures the sound or sounds they hear in a spoken word when they attempt to construct a spelling of that word.