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Children’s first language acquisition of the English writing system

posted on 2023-05-22, 16:54 authored by Nenagh KempNenagh Kemp

What do Santa’s reindeer eat?
Carotes and milke and ausoe vegderbelles for the raindiase
How does Santa know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice?
Elvs were coshtshoms and secrt vedeuo them

An adult reader might be forgiven for finding it difficult to decipher these seven-year-old children’s responses to the ‘Christmas questions’ posed by their teacher. These confusedlooking spellings mean that some adults might not appreciate the detail of the answer that Santa Claus provides ‘Carrots and milk and also vegetables for the reindeer[s]’, or the rather sophisticated suggestion that naughty children are caught out when ‘Elves wear costumes [disguises] and secret-video them’. Are these children simply finding it unusually difficult to learn to write conventionally? Or do their unconventional spellings represent quite a reasonable response to the challenges of the English orthographic system? The aim of this chapter is to chart the development of children learning to write in English as a first language, and to discuss some of the explanations that have been offered for children’s difficulties and successes in their writing acquisition. This chapter concentrates on typical development; the specific difficulties that children may experience in learning to read and write in English are discussed in Chapter 14.


Publication title

The Routledge Handbook of the English Writing System


V Cook & D Ryan






School of Psychological Sciences


Taylor and Francis

Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2016 selection and editorial matter, Vivian Cook and Des Ryan; individual chapters, the contributors

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in psychology

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