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American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology


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Considerable research effort has focused on understanding reading comprehension and reading comprehension difficulties. The purpose of this correlational study was to add to the small but growing body of literature on the role that spelling may play in reading comprehension, by investigating the full range of lexical-level literacy skills and whether spelling makes a unique contribution. This study also explored whether these relations vary with the spelling scoring metric.


Data were collected from 63 children attending Grade 3 in a Midwestern state. In addition to measuring reading comprehension, word recognition, and vocabulary, 4 spelling scoring metrics were examined: the number of words spelled correctly, the number of correct letter sequences (CLS), and Spelling Sensitivity Scores for elements and for words.


All spelling metrics were significantly correlated with reading comprehension. Results of hierarchical regressions showed that spelling was a significant, unique predictor of reading comprehension when the CLS metric was used. The scoring metrics were differentially related to reading comprehension. Metrics that gave credit based on orthographic precision only (number of words spelled correctly and CLS) were more highly related to reading comprehension than metrics that scored not only on orthographic accuracy but also on phonological and morphological accuracy (Spelling Sensitivity Scores for elements and for words).


These results indicate that spelling is related to reading comprehension and have theoretical and clinical implications for the use of spelling assessment.


NOTE: This is the author's post-print version of a work to be published in American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology.

The publisher's version available at

Original Publication Citation

Murphy, K. A., & Justice, L. M. (2019). Lexical-level predictors of reading comprehension in third grade: Is spelling a unique contributor? American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. doi:10.1044/2019_AJSLP-18-0299