Spelling and Reading Representations in Children
This thesis sought to conceptualise children’s spelling and reading representations in a novel way based upon the implicit-explicit framework proposed by the Representational-Redescription (RR) model (Karmiloff-Smith, 1992). The children studied were aged 4-7 years. Existing models of spelling and reading (e.g. Frith, 1985, Ehri, 1998, 1999, 2002) describe the developmental process as a series of stages/phases. An alternative approach adopted here is derived from the author’s previous research (Critten et al. 2007). It employs a coding scheme that analyses children’s explanations of and performance on, recognition tasks that reveal varying levels of explicitness in understanding of spelling. In this thesis the levels are empirically validated for both spelling and reading. It begins with an attempt to show that young children represent spelling knowledge implicitly. A longitudinal study then elucidates the developmental trajectory of both spelling and reading over the course of a year demonstrating that changes occur in the explicitness of children’s underlying representations. By comparing the co-development of spelling and reading it was possible to demonstrate that phonological information is often explicitly used first in spelling before reading, lending support to Frith’s (1985) “pace maker” notions. The final study examined how context, previously known to facilitate children’s reading ability can also facilitate their spelling development. This effect occurs not just for reading and spelling performance but for explicit understanding, building on the Lexical Quality Hypothesis (Perfetti & Hart, 2002) that proposes a role for semantic information in successful spelling and reading. These findings are integrated into a proposal for a new model of development: the Spelling and Reading Explicitation Model (SREM). This model postulates that children develop beyond implicit recognition to form “active” explicit representations, accounting for generalisation errors and characterised as being consciously accessible and verbalisable. It proposes that the development of reading and spelling skill is based upon processes of abstraction, interpretation and application of phonological and morphological knowledge.