KidSpell: Making a difference in spellchecking for children

Brody Downs, Maria Soledad Pera, Katherine Landau Wright, Casey Kennington, Jerry Alan Fails. 2021. “KidSpell: Making a difference in spellchecking for children”. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. DOI:10.1016/j.ijcci.2021.100373.


Children’s ability to spell effectively is a major barrier to using search engines successfully. While search engines make use of spellcheckers to provide spelling corrections to their users, they are designed for more traditional users (i.e., adults) and have proven inadequate for children. The specific target of children for this research are those with early literacy skills (whose are typically ages 6-12). The aim of this work is twofold: first, to address the types of spelling errors children make by researching, developing, and evaluating algorithms to generate and rank candidate English spelling suggestions for children; and second, to improve children’s user experience when using our proposed spellchecker by involving them in the design process through participatory design and evaluating the impact of interactive elements on children’s spellchecking behaviors. The outcomes of our studies and assessments result in a phonetic-based spelling correction model (KidSpell) that can more accurately correction children’s spelling errors than existing state-of-the-art models. Further, we learned that visual and audio cues have a positive impact on children’s ability to find their intended word from a list of spelling suggestions.