Children who text are best spellers

Traditionalists may not like it, but it appears that children who text regularly may be better spellers and readers.

A study, published today by the British Academy, says teachers and parents should embrace texting as a means of improving their children's phonological awareness.

For instance, a child who texts gr8 to a friend often actually knows how to spell the longer form of the word. Researchers also noted an increasing awareness among texters of which words rhymed with each other.

The research, carried out among a sample group of eight to 12-year-olds, found that those who were the most regular texters were unlikely to be among the problem spellers or readers in the class.

The increasing use of texting as a form of communication has prompted concerns that it is destroying the English language. Radio presenter John Humphrys has bemoaned "vandals who are trying to do to the language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours 800 years ago". Examiners have complained of the growing use of text language in exam answers.

However, Dr Clare Wood, a reader in development psychology at Coventry University, who carried out the research, said: "We began studying in this area initially to see if there was any evidence of association between text abbreviation use and literacy skills at all after such a negative portrayal of the activity in the media.

"We were surprised to learn that not only was the association strong but that textism use was actually driving the development of phonological awareness and reading skill in children.

"Texting also appears to be a valuable form of contact with written English for many children, which enables them to practise reading and spelling on a daily basis."

The research failed to detect any sign that frequent texting had any effect on spelling ability in writing standard English. It found that frequent texters were more likely to have higher scores in verbal reasoning tests. "Those who used the most phonologically based textisms were the best at spelling," it added.

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