Spelling…Is it Really That Important?

by Mindy Boyd

In a world of spell check and “C U L8R,” is spelling becoming an obsolete skill? Is it really that important? As a parent and Academic Language Therapist, I understand all too well the struggles, frustrations, and sometimes tears many students experience with spelling. Is it necessary for children to battle through learning how to spell all these words each week when we have technology that can do it for us? The answer is a resounding YES!

Research has shown that when we are learning to spell and read, we are relying on much of the same underlying knowledge, such as the relationships between letters and sounds. Researcher Catherine Snow summarizes the real importance of spelling for reading as follows: “Spelling and reading build and rely on the same mental representation of a word. Knowing the spelling of a word makes the representation of it sturdy and accessible for fluent reading.”

In addition to fostering solid reading skills, spelling also aids in developing effective writing skills. A writer who has to think too hard about how to spell uses up valuable cognitive resources needed for higher level aspects of composition. Louisa Moats, an advisor on literacy research and professional development for Sopris West Educational Services, states, “Even more than reading, writing is a mental juggling act that depends on automatic deployment of  basic skills such as handwriting, spelling, grammar, and punctuation so that the writer can keep track of such concerns as topic, organization, word choice, and audience needs.”

Now that we acknowledge the value in learning to spell, how can we blend fun, meaningful spelling practice with the drudgery of learning rules and patterns? You guessed it…technology!  Technology is a powerful tool when it is used creatively so that students are engaged in the learning task. The purpose of technology is to foster learning, NOT replace it!

Below is a link to an article that provides a review of 10 spelling apps that you can easily download to use with your child at home. The list is comprised of apps that provide practice of phonetically regular one-syllable words, phonetically regular two-syllable words, high frequency (sight) words, apps for mature spellers, and apps that will allow you to customize word lists to provide practice with your child’s words each week.


By using the knowledge of years of research and our ever-developing technological tools, let us teach our children to spell well and enable them to read and write fluently. Our children will need the skills that are the tools to learning and communication throughout their education and their lives. Happy Spelling!