Is it your child's fault in spelling mistakes

I had to work hard to make friends with words.
Sometimes they jumped and flew off like birds.

Short words were friendly like ball, bat and bee.
But longer ones laughed and pointed at me.

I wanted to quit, run off with a yelp.
Instead, I asked my teacher for help.

Now when I read, I soar like a plane,
Flying with pictures I see in brain.

- Jacqueline Jules


Our brain is designed to see and learn. We do or follow what we see, then what we are taught. Now a days schools are teaching phonetic sounds of alphabets which is the best possible method to read and learn new words. Words are stored in the brain as signs. Each sign is associated with a sound. That is how we are able to record each word, recollect and faithfully reproduce it as we speak.

But what if our child is learning perfect sound of each alphabet but still misspelling new words or even some taught words. Where is the lacking? What will you do if you are given a new word of any other language eg “ सुनामी “ and asked to write in English? A normal healthy brain will use the knowledge which it gained from teaching source and will spell as “Sunami”. Is this correct, well no! Why is it not correct? Because actually Tsunami starts with “T”, whereas, the person wrote without “T”. That means the person’s brain has given a wrong command.

Our hand writes what our brain commands and eyes are just to check that whether hand wrote it perfectly or not! Sometimes while the brain is checking, it also commands our mouth to speak out the written word. Our brain commanded what it learnt or our mentors told us to write according to sounds, that means the spelling according to our knowledge is correct.
So then why a child is being scolded for a wrong spelling. At the end what we can gather is that phonetic sounds are just not sufficient to learn spelling of new words. Every semester a child is learning approximately 1000 new words. But brain has limited learning ability. Present learning methods also mean that teachers in school or tutors at home also have their limits as far as helping a child learn new words correctly. Can anything be done about this universal issue faced by each child.
Yes, here the onus lies with parents to help the child. Parents unknowingly skip something very important, ie reading new words with their children. Following suggestion are for parent who want to help their children. Please note that these points are applicable to any language. These suggestions will help parents improve spelling capability by about 40 to 50%
  • Important practice that can be started for younger children is reading a bedtime story.
  • While reading out to a child, it is important that you place a finger on the word which you are reading. Make better use of the eyes of your child. The child’s eye should be on the word.
  • Parents usually start reading with the child and after a few sentences ask the child to read on its own. Here it is important that the parent finish reading with the child. Almost each sentence might have a new word. And only the parent can tell whether the child has read and pronounced it correct. If you want your child to be a genius, be with the child till the end.
  • Parents should preferably begin reading with sight words. Simply put in, sight words are those which are repeatedly found in a paragraph again and again. They are named sight words because children at a young age are supposed to learn these words just by seeing them. These are the first words which a child has to pick up correctly and with ease. For eg and, the, for, you, was and so on. Most experts agree that such words are approximately 100.
  • For elder children, above age of 10 to 11 years, use of a dictionary for learning new words is recommended every day. Reading a dictionary for even 10 - 15 minutes a day will hugely benefit.
  • Dictionary reading will also help aspirants appearing for professional entrance exams like UPSC where command over language gives the aspirant the edge not only during the written exams, but during subsequent group discussions and interview.
  • A developing brain needs to get nutrition and remain healthy too. Good food and adequate rest is also as important as reading itself.
Readers are cautioned here that these suggestions are simple ideas as a starting point for helping the child with spelling mistakes. There are several situations where professional help is recommended. Like in case the child has a medical condition or weak eyesight. No student can achieve complete mastery over spellings. But as parents, it is important that a misspelling of the child is picked up and corrected rather than blaming the child for something which the brain was not prepared for in the first place.
About the artwork for this article
The word "Spelling" in the center is hand drawn in Calligraphy. Spelling is also repeated five times in five different languages from five corners of India signifying the diversity of Indian languages. The tips provided in this article can be used for any language.

Spelling - Hand drawn by Deepika Badlani. Please contact the author for copies of this work or visit the portfolio page for more samples.