Contemporary Perspectives on Reading and Spelling

Contemporary Perspectives on Reading and Spelling

Contemporary Perspectives on Reading and Spelling

Contemporary Perspectives on Reading and Spelling


With contributions from leading international researchers, Contemporary Perspectives on Reading and Spelling offers a critique of current thinking on the research literature into reading, reading comprehension and writing. Each paper in this volume provides an account of empirical research that challenges aspects of accepted models and widely accepted theories about reading and spelling.

This book develops the argument for a need to incorporate less widely cited research into popular accounts of written language development and disability, challenging the idea that the development of a universal theory of written language development is attainable. The arguments within the book are explored in three parts:

  • overarching debates in reading and spelling
  • reading and spelling across languages
  • written language difficulties and approaches to teaching.

Opening up the existing debates, and incorporating psychological theory and the politics surrounding the teaching and learning of reading and spelling, this edited collection offers some challenging points for reflection about how the discipline of psychology as a whole approaches the study of written language skills.

Highlighting ground-breaking new perspectives, this book forms essential reading for all researchers and practitioners with a focus on the development of reading and spelling skills.


Clare Wood and Vincent Connelly

There are many good texts that offer a comprehensive overview of theoretical ideas in reading and writing. It is easy to assume from such excellent accounts that although there are some areas that are still contested, much of the evidence regarding how children learn to read and write fits together reasonably well. This volume, whilst not seeking to underplay the significance of existing theories, argues that the work into written language acquisition is far from done. The current models of reading and spelling development only take us so far in understanding these highly complex and interrelated processes, and interventions developed on these models therefore only offer a partial solution to written language difficulties.

The book is organised into three main parts. Part 1 is concerned with overarching issues about the nature of reading and spelling processes. The purpose of this part is to open up a discussion of existing accounts of reading and spelling acquisition. That is, our favoured models focus on the development of segmental phonological awareness and the skills of decoding and recoding text by learning and applying phoneme– grapheme correspondences. Such discussions primarily focus on the constituents of single syllables, with the assumption that polysyllabic word reading is a relatively simple matter of decoding each syllable in turn, and spelling is about acquiring grapheme–phoneme correspondences and learning exceptional spellings. However, this conceptualisation of reading and spelling may be seen as problematic for a number of reasons.

The first issue with this type of model is that it is somewhat light on the detail of where segmental phonological awareness comes from. That is, although it has been argued and assumed that phonemic awareness at least is the result of explicit tuition in the alphabetic principle this claim is not universally agreed, and there is evidence that phonological awareness can develop independently of and prior to reading tuition. Whether or not we accept that such development is possible, the fact remains that many children fail to acquire phonological awareness despite years of tuition in phonics. Why? What is distinctive about these children?

The first three chapters in this book suggest that the answer to this question might lie in the skills that developmentally precede phonological awareness. According to Thomson in Chapter 2, it may be that these children have difficulties in auditory processing, whereas in Chapter 1, Wood, Wade-Woolley and Holliman argue more specifically that such children may have a relative insensitivity to speech rhythm. The idea of speech rhythm being implicated in reading development is not a new one, insofar as it has been linked to reading comprehension and reading fluency in the . . .

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