Annals of Dyslexia

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 136–160 | Cite as

Enhancing orthographic knowledge helps spelling production in eight-year-old Chinese children at risk for dyslexia

  • Che Kan Leong
  • Ka Yee Loh
  • Wing Wah Ki
  • Shek Kam Tse


We investigated the effects of enhancing orthographic knowledge on the spelling of Chinese characters and words in 131 eight-year-old Chinese children at risk for dyslexia. The traditional approach (37 children) emphasizing memory and repeated writing was the control condition. The analytic and synthetic approach (ASA, 33 children) stressed insight into character structure. The integrated analytic and synthetic approach added to ASA self-correction and metacognitive activities (INA, 61 children). The children were first asked to write down as many words as possible associated with pictures of home, school, and community; the correctly written words formed the baseline information. The children were then instructed by their classroom teachers in six especially designed short texts and assessed in eight measurable bujian or radical tasks subserving three constructs: morpheme completion, bujian analysis and synthesis and bujian compounding. Multivariate analyses of variance showed that the children in the INA condition outperformed those in the other conditions in three of the measurable bujian tasks. A confirmatory factor analysis verified the stability of the eight tasks and their clustering into three constructs. From these results, we tentatively propose a “bujian sensitivity hypothesis” as a means of helping young Chinese children at risk for spelling disorders.


Bujian sensitivity hypothesis Chinese children at risk for dyslexia Enhancing orthographic (bujian) knowledge 


  1. Anderson, R. C., Li, W., Ku, Y.-M., Shu, H., & Wu, N. (2003). Use of partial information in learning to read Chinese characters. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 52–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barker, T. A., Torgesen, J. K., & Wagner, R. K. (1992). The role of orthographic processing skills on five different reading tasks. Reading Research Quarterly, 27, 334–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop, D. V. M., & Snowling, M. J. (2004). Developmental dyslexia and specific language impairment: Same or different? Psychological Bulletin, 130, 858–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, T. A. (2006). Confimratory factor analysis for applied research. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, G. D. A., & Ellis, N. (Eds.). (1994). Handbook of spelling: Theory, process, and intervention. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Chao, Y. R. (1968). A grammar of spoken Chinese. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, X., Hao, M., Geva, E., Zhu, J., & Shu, H. (2009). The role of compound awareness in Chinese children’s vocabulary acquisition and character reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 22, 615–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chliounaki, K., & Bryant, P. (2007). How children learn about morphological spelling rules. Child Development, 78, 1360–1373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conrad, N. J. (2008). From reading to spelling and spelling to reading: Transfer goes both ways. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 869–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Critchley, M. (1970). The dyslexic child (2nd and augmented ed. of Developmental dyslexia). London: Heinemann Medical Books.Google Scholar
  11. Cunningham, A. E. (2006). Accounting for children’s orthographic learning while reading text: Do children self-teach? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 95, 56–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cunningham, A. E., Perry, K. E., Stanovich, K. E., & Share, D. L. (2002). Orthographic learning during reading: Examining the role of self-teaching. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82, 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Jong, P., & Share, D. L. (2007). Orthographic learning during oral and silent reading. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11, 55–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehri, L. C. (1997). Learning to read and learning to spell are one and the same, almost. In C. A. Perfetti, L. Rieben, & M. Fayol (Eds.), Learning to spell: Research, theory, and practice across languages (pp. 237–269). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Elliott, C. D., Murray, D. J., & Pearson, L. S. (1978). British Ability Scales: Manual 3: Directions for administration and scoring and Manual 4: Tables of abilities and norms. Windsor, Berks: NFER.Google Scholar
  16. Foorman, B. R., Francis, D. J., Novy, D. M., & Liberman, D. (1991). How letter-sound instruction mediates progress in first-grade reading and spelling. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 456–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Galaburda, A. M. (2005). Dyslexia—A molecular disorder of neuronal migration: The 2004 Norman Geschwind Memorial Lecture. Annals of Dyslexia, 55, 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Galaburda, A. M., LoTurco, J., Ramus, F., Fitch, R. H., & Rosen, G. D. (2006). From genes to behavior in developmental dyslexia. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 1213–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Henderson, E. H. (1990). Teaching spelling (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  20. Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D. W.-O., Chung, K. K. H., Tsang, S.-M., Lee, S.-H., & Cheng, R. W.-Y. (2007). The Hong Kong test of specific learning difficulties in reading and writing for primary school students—second edition [HKT-P(II)]. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Specific Learning Difficulties Research Team.Google Scholar
  21. Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D. W.-O., Lee, S.-H., Tsang, S.-M., & Luan, V. H. (2004). Cognitive profiling and preliminary subtyping in Chinese developmental dyslexia. Cognition, 91, 43–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ho, C. S.-H., Chan, D. W.-O., Tsang, S.-M., & Lee, S.-H. (2002). The cognitive profile and multiple deficit hypothesis in Chinese developmental dyslexia. Developmental Psychology, 38, 543–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ho, C. S.-H., Ng, T.-T., & Ng, W.-K. (2003). A “radical” approach to reading development in Chinese: The role of semantic radicals and phonetic radicals. Journal of Literacy Research, 35, 849–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ho, C. S.-H., Wong, W.-L., & Chan, W.-S. (1999). The use of orthographic analogies in learning to read Chinese. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 393–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Høien, T., & Lundberg, I. (2000). Dyslexia: From theory to intervention. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  26. Hsiao, J. H.-W., & Shillock, R. (2006). Analysis of a Chinese phonetic compound database: Implications for orthographic processing. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 35, 405–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hulme, C. (1983). Multi-sensory teaching and specific reading retardation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Hulme, C., & Joshi, R. M. (Eds.). (1998). Reading and spelling: Development and disorders. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  29. Hulme, C., Monk, A., & Ives, S. (1987). Some experimental studies of multi-sensory teaching: The effects of the manual tracing on children’s pair-associative learning. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 5, 299–307.Google Scholar
  30. Jöreskog, K.G., & Sörbom, D. (1996–2001). LISREL 8: User’s reference guide. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  31. Keuning, J., & Verhoeven, L. (2008). Spelling development through the elementary grades: The Dutch case. Learning and Individual Differences, 18, 459–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kwan, T.W. (2003). Chinese character database: With word-formations. Retrieved March 15, 2009 from
  33. Kwong, T. E., & Varnhagen, C. K. (2005). Strategy development and learning to spell new words: Generalization of a process. Developmental Psychology, 41, 148–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Law, S.-P. (2004). Writing errors of a Cantonese dysgraphic patient and their theoretical implications. Neurocase, 10, 132–140.Google Scholar
  35. Law, S.-P., Yeung, O., Wong, W., & Chiu, K. M. Y. (2005). Processing of semantic radicals in writing Chinese characters: Data from a Chinese dysgraphic patient. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 22, 885–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Leong, C. K. (1999). What can we learn from dyslexia in Chinese? In I. Lundberg, F. I. Tønnessen, & I. Austad (Eds.), Dyslexia: Advances in theory and practice (pp. 117–139). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  37. Leong, C. K. (2009). The role of inflectional morphology in Canadian children’s word reading and spelling. The Elementary School Journal, 109, 343–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Leong, C. K., Cheng, P. W., & Lam, C. C. (2000). Exploring reading spelling connection as locus of dyslexia in Chinese. Annals of Dyslexia, 50, 239–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Leong, C. K., & Ho, M. K. (2008). The role of lexical knowledge and related linguistic components in typical and poor language comprehenders of Chinese. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 21, 559–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lyon, G. R. (1995). Toward a definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 45, 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lyon, G. R., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (2003). A definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Marsh, H. W., Hau, K. T., & Grayson, D. (2005). Goodness of fit in structural equation models. In A. Maydeu-Olivaries & J. J. McArdle (Eds.), Contemporary psychometrics: A Festschrift for Roderick P. McDonald (pp. 225–340). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  43. McBride-Chang, C., Cho, J.-R., Liu, H., Wagner, R. K., Shu, H., Zhou, A., et al. (2005). Changing models across cultures: Associations of phonological awareness and morphological structure awareness with vocabulary and word recognition in second graders from Beijing, Hong Kong, Korea, and the United States. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 92, 140–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moats, L. C. (2000). Speech to print: Language essentials for teachers. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  45. Nunes, T., & Bryant, P. (2009). Children’s reading and spelling: Beyond the first steps. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  46. Olson, R. K. (2006). Genes, environment, and dyslexia: The 2005 Norman Geschwind Memorial Lecture. Annals of Dyslexia, 56, 205–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Orton, S. T. (1937). Reading, writing, and speech problems in children. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  48. Packard, J. L. (2000). The morphology of Chinese: A linguistic and cognitive approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Packard, J. L., Chen, X., Li, W., Wu, X., Gaffney, J. S., Li, H., et al. (2006). Explicit instruction in orthographic structure and word morphology helps Chinese children learn to write characters. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19, 457–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pennington, B. F., & Bishop, D. V. M. (2009). Relations among speech, language, and reading disorders. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 283–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Perfetti, C. A. (1997). The psycholinguistics of spelling and reading. In C. A. Perfetti, L. Rieben, & M. Fayol (Eds.), Learning to spell: Research, theory, and practice across languages (pp. 21–38). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  52. Perfetti, C. A., & Liu, Y. (2006). Reading Chinese characters: Orthography, phonology, meaning, and the lexical constituency model. In P. Li, L. H. Tan, E. Bates, & O. J. L. Tzeng (Eds.), The handbook of East Asian psycholinguistics (pp. 225–236). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Perfetti, C. A., Liu, Y., & Tan, L. H. (2005). The lexical constituency model: Some implications of research on Chinese for general theories of reading. Psychological Review, 112, 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Perfetti, C. A., Rieben, L., & Fayol, M. (Eds.). (1997). Learning to spell: Research, theory, and practice across languages. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  55. Pollo, T. C., Treiman, R., & Kessler, B. (2008). Three perspectives on spelling development. In E. L. Grigorenko & A. J. Naples (Eds.), Single-word reading: Behavioral and biological perspectives (pp. 175–189). New York: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  56. Raven, J., Raven, J. C., & Court, J. H. (2000). Standard progressive matrices: Including the parallel and plus versions. Oxford: Oxford Psychological Press.Google Scholar
  57. Rittle-Johnson, B., & Siegler, R. S. (1999). Learning to spell: Variability, choice, and change in children’s strategy use. Child Development, 70, 332–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shahar-Yames, D., & Share, D. L. (2008). Spelling as a self-teaching mechanism in orthographic learning. Journal of Research in Reading, 31, 22–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Share, D. L. (1995). Phonological recoding and self-teaching: Sine qua non of reading acquisition. Cognition, 55, 151–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Share, D. L. (1999). Phonological recoding and orthographic learning: A direct test of the self-teaching hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 72, 95–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Share, D. L. (2004). Phonological recoding at a glance: On the time course and developmental onset of self-teaching. Journal of Experimental Child Psychologh, 87, 267–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sharp, A. C., Sinatra, G. M., & Reynolds, R. E. (2008). The development of children’s orthographic knowledge: A microgenetic perspective. Reading Research Quarterly, 43, 206–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Alfrd A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  64. Shen, H. H., & Bear, D. R. (2000). Development of orthographic skills in Chinese children. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 13, 197–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Shu, H., & Anderson, R. C. (1997). Role of radical awareness in the character and word acquisition of Chinese children. Reading Research Quarterly, 32, 78–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shu, H., & Anderson, R. C. (1999). Learning to read Chinese: The development of metalinguistic awareness. In J. Wang, A. B. Inhoff, & H.-C. Chen (Eds.), Reading Chinese script: A cognitive analysis (pp. 1–18). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  67. Shu, H., Chen, X., Anderson, R. C., Wu, N., & Xuan, Y. (2003). Properties of school Chinese: Implications for learning to read. Child Development, 74, 27–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shu, H., McBride-Chang, C., Wu, S., & Liu, H. (2006). Understanding Chinese developmental dyslexia: Morphological awareness as a core cognitive construct. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 122–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Snowling, M. J., & Hayiou-Thomas, M. E. (2006). The dyslexia spectrum: Continuities between reading, speech, and language impairment. Topics in Language Disorders, 26, 108–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Snowling, M. J., & Hulme, C. (2005). Learning to read with a language impairment. In M. J. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The science of reading: A handbook (pp. 397–412). Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Steffler, D. J., Varnhagen, C. K., Friesen, C. K., & Treiman, R. (1998). There’s more to children’s spelling than the errors they make: Strategic and automatic processes for one-syllable words. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 492–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tan, L. H., Spinks, J. A., Eden, G. F., Perfetti, C. A., & Siok, W. T. (2005). Reading depends on writing, in Chinese. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(24), 8781–8785 (June 14).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Templeton, S. (2003). Spelling. In J. Flood, D. Lapp, J. R. Squire, & J. M. Jensen (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching the English language arts (2nd ed., pp. 738–751). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  74. Ting, F.-P. (1927/1970). Shuōwén Jiézi Kulin. Taipei: Commercial Press.Google Scholar
  75. Tong, X., McBride-Chang, C., Shu, H., & Wong, A. M.-Y. (2009). Morphological awareness, orthographic knowledge, and spelling errors: Keys to understanding early Chinese literacy acquisition. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13, 426–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Treiman, R. (1993). Beginning to spell: A study of first-grade children. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Treiman, R., & Kessler, B. (2005). Writing systems and spelling development. In M. J. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The science of reading: A handbook (pp. 120–134). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tse, S. K. (Ed.). (2001). Gaoxiao hanzi jiao yu xue [Effective teaching and learning of Chinese characters]. Hong Kong: Greenfield Education Publishing (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  79. Tse, S.K., Cheung, W.Y.C., Loh, K.Y., & Lui, W.L. (2008). [Chinese language curriculum, teaching materials, and teaching methods: Help for children with special needs]. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  80. Tse, S. K., Marton, F., Ki, W. W., & Loh, E. K. Y. (2007). An integrative perceptual approach to teaching Chinese characters. Instructional Science, 35, 375–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tzeng, O. J. L. (2002). Current issues in learning to read Chinese. In M. Li, J. S. Gaffney, & J. L. Packard (Eds.), Chinese children’s reading acquisition: Theoretical and pedagogical issues (pp. 3–15). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  82. Venezky, R. L. (1970). The structure of English orthography. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  83. Wang, L. (1985). Zhōngguó xiàndài yŭfă [Modern Chinese grammar]. Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan.Google Scholar
  84. Wang, L. (1989). [Hanyu phonology] (2nd ed.) . Hong Kong: Zhonghua Shuju (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  85. Wang, M., & Cheng, C. (2008). Subsyllabic unit preference in young Chinese children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 29, 291–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Wang, L., & Tsou, H. L. (1999). Han Zi [Chinese characters]. Hong Kong: Hai Fung Publishers.Google Scholar
  87. Wang, M., Perfetti, C. A., & Liu, Y. (2003). Alphabetic readers quickly acquire orthographic structure in learning to read Chinese. Scientific Studies of Reading, 7, 183–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wang, M., Perfetti, C. A., & Liu, Y. (2004). The implicit and explicit learning of orthographic structure and function of a new writing system. Scientific Studies of Reading, 8, 357–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Yin, W. G., & Weekes, B. S. (2003). Dyslexia in Chinese: Clues from cognitive neuropsychology. Annals of Dyslexia, 53, 255–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Zhōngguό guόjiā yǔwěi [Chinese National Language Committee] (1998). Xun xi chu li yong GB13000.1 zi fu ji: Hanzi bujian gui fan [Information processing using GB13000.1 Character symbol anthology: Hanzi bujian analyses]. Beijing: Beijing Language Institute Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The International Dyslexia Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Che Kan Leong
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ka Yee Loh
    • 3
  • Wing Wah Ki
    • 3
  • Shek Kam Tse
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology & Special EducationUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Educational PsychologyChinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationUniversity of Hong KongHong KongChina

Personalised recommendations