A foreward by Shane Templeton

Why Kids Can't Spell: A Practical Guide to the Missing Component in Language Proficiency

It is rare indeed when a book such as Why Kids Can’t Spell is offered for parents and teachers. Written with the knowledge of an educator and the love of a parent, this book is a wonderfully crafted resource that does much more than help parents and teachers help children learn to spell. Yes, our children are growing up in an age of digital technology with word processing spell-checkers. Roberta Heembrock demonstrates how spelling knowledge remains critically important, however, for writing and for reading. No software program can cuddle like a parent when reading a favorite book to a child, or gently guide the child in her sounding out the spelling of a word in a letter to grandma. Roberta provides parents all they need to know for building the larger context for learning to spell and for setting up a literate environment at home. She provides teachers solid recommendations for establishing a similar environment in the classroom.

Spelling involves so very much more than simply getting down the right letters in the correct sequence, and learning how to spell is not merely a process of rote memorization. Roberta guides us through an understanding of how the spelling system of English really works. True, although we don’t spell most words “the way they sound” in English, this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. You will learn why this is so, and in turn learn how to guide children’s developing understanding of spelling as a supportive and exciting process of discovery.

Roberta has structured each chapter in this book only as a gifted teacher could do. She shares with you what is to be learned, and then engagingly walks you through how to teach it. Through delightful examples from children’s writing, she helps you learn that your child’s understanding of spelling – in a larger sense, of how words work – is a developmental process. She explains and walks you through a wealth of strategies and activities to guide your child’s development. Because spelling is not an isolated skill but exists in the context of reading, writing, talking, and listening, she offers strategies and skills that support your child’s growth and development in all of these areas.

You are in for some surprises as well: What begins in your child’s writing as random marks, and later becomes quite strange and unusual spellings, actually reveals a wondrous and impressive logic. Roberta will help you understand this logic underlying your young child’s attempts to spell words and how you may respond to, and facilitate, those attempts. And as your child grows and learns – or if your child is already older and you are wondering what to do – you may be surprised to learn how you can help him or her learn that the way we spell words offers powerful clues about their meaning. This is where learning about spelling and learning about vocabulary become very closely connected. If you are a classroom teacher, this spelling/vocabulary connection will provide fascinating and compelling instructional opportunities.

If it has not become apparent already, I would like to emphasize that you and your child (or children!) are in for a marvelous, instructive, and enjoyable journey. In reading this book, I have learned much; I know you will as well!

Shane Templeton, Ph.D.
Foundation Professor of Literacy Studies
University of Nevada, Reno

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