The Research Tours: The Impacts of Orthographic Disadvantage

Susan Galletly
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Susan Galletly

A book for readers interested in education and Australia’s needs for improvement, including teachers, academics, parents, health professionals, researchers and government personnel.


ISNB13: 9780645535341

Release Date: 20/5/2023


The second book of the Aussie Reading Woes trilogy, The Research Tours: The Impacts of Orthographic Disadvantage details key research findings providing a strong basis for the 10 Changes; and strategic directions for Australian education to pursue, for Australia to achieve the strong effective education so many other nations enjoy.

Susan Galletly BSpThy MEd PhD is an Australian learning disabilities researcher and specialist, speech language pathologist and teacher, with decades of experience in research and practice. Her insights are well-considered and wise, seen in her strong emphasis on Australia doing careful strategic research as education explores 10 Changes issues and improvements.

Down the decades, educators have paid surprisingly little attention to orthographic complexity. An orthography is a spelling system, and nations choose the orthographies they use. Highly-regular orthographies, such as Finnish, Italian and Korean, ease and speed early literacy development, with children reading and writing effectively within a few months. Highly-complex orthographies such as Australia’s Standard English hugely impede early-literacy development: while children in most regular-orthography nations are confident, accurate readers and writers from Grade 1, test norms show Australian word-reading and spelling development take six and nine years, respectively, on average, with many children and adults never achieving healthy reading and writing.

The Standard English orthographies of Australia, UK and USA are among the world’s most complex orthographies, so much so that researchers consider them as outliers to the continuum of orthographic complexity of nations’ orthographies.

Most nations use highly regular orthographies. Some use a single highly-regular orthography, e.g., Finland, Italy, Spain. Other nations, including Taiwan, Japan and China, whose orthographies are far more complex than English, use highly-regular beginners’ orthographies. These expedite children’s literacy and learning skills, with the nations then smoothly transitioning their confident literate learners to reading and writing their highly complex orthographies.

Through rapid easy literacy development and schools teaching to confident literate learners, regular-orthography nations have access to orthographic advantage: strong advantage at child, school, education system and national level.

In contrast, Anglophone nations have severe orthographic disadvantage.

Well-considered and wise, The Research Tours is an entertaining and surprisingly easy read, using clear explanations and useful detailing of the implications of research studies as lists of directions and recommendations for Australian education to pursue.