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Children as young as three are already beginning to recognize and follow important rules and patterns governing how letters in the English language fit together to make words, a new study suggests.
The study provides new evidence that children start to learn about some aspects of reading and writing at a very early age.
…children are clearly listening to the word and trying to use letters to symbolize some of the sounds within it…
“Our results show that children begin to learn about the statistics of written language, for example about which letters often appear together and which letters appear together less often, before they learn how letters represent the sounds of a language,” says study coauthor Rebecca Treiman, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
An important part of learning to read and spell is learning about how the letters in written words reflect the sounds in spoken words. Children often begin to show this knowledge around 5 or 6 years of age when they produce spellings such as BO or BLO for “blow.”
We tend to think that learning to spell doesn’t really begin until children start inventing spellings that reflect the sounds in spoken words—spellings like C or KI for “climb”. These early invented spellings may not represent all of the sounds in a word, but children are clearly listening to the word and trying to use letters to symbolize some of the sounds within it, Treiman says.
As children get older, these sound-based spellings improve. For example, children may move from something like KI for “climb” to something like KLIM.