Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 14: 487–513, 2001.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Phonemic awareness, spontaneous writing, and reading and
spelling development from a preventive perspective
Centre for Educational Psychology, Bornholm, Denmark
Abstract. This study examined the nature of the relationship between phonemic awareness
and reading and spelling development and focused particularly on the development of early
self-directed writing. The spontaneous writing attempts of 44 ﬁrst-graders were followed on 6
test occasions from the start of grade 1 (7 years) until the middle of grade 2. The children were
divided into 2 groups, one group (N = 21) with a high level of phonemic awareness on entry
into grade 1 (HPA) and one group (N = 23) with a low level on entry (LPA). The connection
between level of invented spelling used in the self-directed writing and later reading and
spelling achievement in grades 1 and 2 was investigated. The results showed remarkable diffe-
rences between the two groups. Level of invented spelling at Time 1 was highly predictive of
both reading and spelling achievement at the end of grades 1 and 2, but only for the HPA group.
With Time of Mastery regarding phonemic spelling as the independent variable and reading
and spelling at the end of grade 2 as the dependent variable, regressions analysis indicated
strong direct effects of early phonemic spelling upon later reading and spelling development,
but only for the LPA children. The two groups showed different patterns of development in
learning to read and spell during grades 1 and 2.
Keywords: Phonemic awareness, Spontaneous writing, Functional letter knowledge, Early
reading and spelling development
There seems to be different ways in which a child can establish basic word
processing strategies in early reading and spelling. One is through formal
teaching activities in the classroom. Studies have tested programs of early
reading instruction which have shown to be superior to other programs
(Cunningham 1990; Hatcher et al. 1995; Iversen & Tunmer 1993; Olson et
al. 1997; Torgesen et al. 1997). Another way is by participating in language
games before the start of formal reading instruction in grade 1 (Bradley &
Bryant 1983; Brennan & Ireson 1997; Lundberg et al. 1988; Schneider et al.
1997). A third way seems to be through self-directed writing activities prior
to school entry (Chomsky 1979; Hagtvet 1989; Read 1971).
Studies of children’s spellings in early writing attempts have shown how
competently most children can invent and produce phonologically based
spelling by their own effort (Beers & Henderson 1977; Chomsky 1979;