Reading and Writing

, Volume 21, Issue 1–2, pp 27–47 | Cite as

The building blocks of writing: Learning to write letters and spell words

  • Kristen D. Ritchey


This study examined the development of beginning writing skills in kindergarten and the relationship between early writing skills and early reading skills. Sixty children were assessed on beginning writing skills (including letter writing, individual sound spelling, and real and nonsense word spelling) and beginning reading skills (including letter name and letter sound knowledge, global early reading ability, phonological awareness, and word reading). Children’s beginning writing abilities are described, and they exhibited a range of proficiency in their ability to write letters, spell sounds, and spell real and nonsense words. Global early reading proficiency, phonological awareness, and/or letter sound fluency predicted letter writing, sound spelling, and spelling of real and nonsense words.


Letter writing Spelling Writing and reading relationship Early writing 


  1. Daly, E. J., Wright, J. A., Kelly, S. Q., & Meadows, B. K. (1997). Measures of early academic skills: Reliability and validity of fluency with a first grade sample. School Psychology Quarterly, 12, 268–280.Google Scholar
  2. DIBELS: Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. (2001). Retrieved from Accessed 6 September 2001.Google Scholar
  3. Ehri, L.C. (1997). Learning to read and learning to spell are one and the same, almost. In C. A. Perfetti, L. Reiben & M. Fayol (Eds.), Learning to spell: Research, theory and practice across languages (pp. 237–270). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  4. Ehri, L. C. (1998). Grapheme-phoneme knowledge is essential for learning to read words in English. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.), Word recognition in beginning literacy (pp. 3–40). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Ehri, L. C., & Wilce, L. (1987). Does learning to spell help beginners learn to read words? Reading Research Quarterly, 27, 47–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Elliott, J., Lee, S. W., & Tollefson, N. (2001). A reliability and validity study of the dynamic indicators of early literacy skills—modified. School Psychology Review, 30, 33–49.Google Scholar
  7. Good, R. H., Simmons, D. C., & Kame’enui, E. J. (2001). The importance and decision-making utility of a continuum of fluency based indicators of foundational reading skills for third-grade students. Scientific Studies of Reading, 5, 257–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Fink, B. (2000). Is handwriting causally related to learning to write? Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 620–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Fink Chorzempa, B. (2002). Contribution of spelling instruction to the spelling, writing, and reading of poor spellers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 669–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Graham, S., Weintraub, N., & Berninger, V. (2001). Which manuscript letters do primary children write legibly? Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 488–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hecht, S., & Close, L. (2002). Emergent literacy skills and training time uniquely predict variability in responses to phonemic awareness training in disadvantaged kindergartners. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82, 93–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kaminski, R. A., & Good, R. H. (1996). Towards a technology for assessing basic early literacy skills. School Psychology Review, 25, 215–227.Google Scholar
  13. Lundberg, I., Frost, J., & Petersen, O. (1988). Effects of an extensive program for stimulating phonological awareness in preschool children. Reading Research Quarterly, 23, 263–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mann, V. A., Tobian, P., & Wilson, R. (1987). Measuring phonological awareness through the invented spelling of kindergarten children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 33, 365–391.Google Scholar
  15. McBride-Chang, C. (1998). The development of invented spelling. Early Education and Development, 9, 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McBride-Chang, C. (1999). The ABCs of the ABCs: The development of letter-name and letter-sound knowledge. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 45, 285–308.Google Scholar
  17. National Center for Education Statistics (2001). The nation’s reported card: Fourth-grade reading 2000. Retrieved from Accessed 2 February 2003.Google Scholar
  18. National Reading Panel (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-base of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health.Google Scholar
  19. O’Connor, R. E., & Jenkins, J. R. (1995). Improving the generalization of sound/symbol knowledge: Teaching spelling to children with disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 29, 255–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. O’Connor, R. E., & Jenkins, J. R. (1999) Prediction of reading disabilities in kindergarten and first grade. Scientific Studies in Reading, 3, 159–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Reid, K., Hresko, W., & Hammill, D. (2001). The test of early reading ability (3rd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  22. Ritchey, K. D. (2006). Learning to write: Progress-monitoring tools for beginning and at-risk writers. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(2), 22–26.Google Scholar
  23. Ritchey, K. D., & Speece, D. L. (2006). From letter names to word reading: The nascent role of sublexical fluency. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 31, 301–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Salvia, J., & Ysseldyke, J. (2004). Assessment in inclusive and special education (9th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  25. Snow C., Burn M. S. & Griffin P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Research Council.Google Scholar
  26. Speece, D. L., & Case, L. P. (2001). Classification in context: An alternative approach to identifying early reading disability. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 735–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Speece, D. L., Mills, C., Ritchey, K. D., & Hillman, E. (2003). Initial evidence that Letter Fluency tasks are valid indicators of early reading skill. Journal of Special Education, 36,, 223–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stage, S., & Wagner, R. K. (1992). Development of young children’s phonological and orthographic knowledge as revealed by their spellings. Developmental Psychology, 28, 287–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Swanson, H. L., & Berninger, V. W. (1996). Individual differences in children’s working memory and writing skill. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63, 358–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tangel, D. M., & Blachman, B. A. (1992). Effect of phoneme awareness instruction on kindergarten children’s invented spellings. Journal of Reading Behavior, 24, 233–258.Google Scholar
  31. Tindal, G. A., & Marston, D. B. (1990). Classroom-based assessment: Evaluating instructional outcomes. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Treiman, R., Tincoff, R., Rodriguez, K., Mouzaki, A., & Francis, D. J. (1998). The foundation of literacy: Learning the sounds of letters. Child Development, 69, 1524–1540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Uhry, J. K. (1999). Invented spelling in kindergarten: The relationship with finger-point reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 11, 441–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Uhry, J., & Sheperd, M. (1993). Segmentation/spelling instruction as part of a first-grade reading program: Effects on several measures of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 28, 218–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. (1999). Comprehensive test of phonological processing. Austin, TX: ProEd.Google Scholar
  36. White, O. R, & Haring, N. G. (1980). Exceptional teaching. Columbus, OH: Merrill.Google Scholar
  37. Woodcock, R. (1998). Woodcock reading mastery test—revised/normative update. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education Willard HallUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations