Contrary to worries that cell phone texting impairs literacy, kids who use text abbreviations on their phones—lol, l8tr, and the like—do better in reading and spelling in school, according to new study from Britain’s Coventry University. In a small study of 63 children between the ages of 8 and 12, psychologist Clare Wood found that levels of text speak (“textism”) were good predictors of reading ability.
Wood theorizes that texting is related to “phonological awareness”: the ability to sense and manipulate rhyme and other sound patterns in speech. This facility is tied to the development of reading and spelling skills.
“We were surprised to learn that not only was the association strong, but that textism use was actually driving the development of phonological awareness and reading skill in children,” Wood said in a university press release. “Texting also appears to be a valuable form of contact with written English for many children, which enables them to practice reading and spelling on a daily basis.” Wood is conducting a large-scale study of the issue with funds from the British Academy.