Friday, September 22, 2006

Vindicated! (at least a little...)

The other night at the dinner table, my family had a discussion about spelling (I know...weird. But it was a refreshing change from the usual sport, auto racing, or bodily-function topics that usually dominate).

"I'm the worst speller in the universe, because I forget how to spell 'orange'," says the 8th grader.

"No, I'm the worst speller in the universe, because I forget how to spell 'were'," I volunteer.

"Noooo, I'm the worst speller in the universe, because I forget how to spell 'of'," pipes in my 5th grader, an outstanding math student, but a struggling reader and writer.

Uproarious laughter ensued -- including from the 5th grader, who has an amazing attitude and unusual insight into his own academic abilities.

But then, we suddenly stopped laughing. "U-V," says the 8th grader. "Uv...." We all nodded our heads in shared understanding. It was a "Eureka!" moment for all of us. Spelling is hard.

And also apparently inherited. Wednesday's The Age (Melbourne, Australia) reports on a study of 650 pairs of twins that found "...the ability to read and spell were about 50 per cent inherited, with a child's upbringing and schooling controlling the other half."

What's even more amazing, according to the study, "was the discovery that the same genes were involved in both activities."

Now wait a minute, you're probably thinking, I'm a great reader, but a terrible speller. If that's you, The Age says you're not alone: "...anecdotal evidence shows many people believe they're good at one but not the other." But apparently your experiences in life (schooling, practice, reading) can help compensate for the genetic weakness.

For some like me, though, practice and experience will never overcome poor spelling. I just have to accept the limitation and find strategies to address the problem. (Although if you read this blog regularly, you'll see that even my best vigilence -- or is it "vigilance'? -- fails me regularly.)

So is the study right? Is bad spelling inherited? What about reading? And is one problem easier to fix than the other? What do you think?


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