By Jessica Farrow
As a kindergarten teacher, my mother would start the school year by asking her students to write their names. I asked her once if she could tell which kids had been to preschool based on their writing. Sometimes, she told me. More often, though, it was a sign of which ones had parents who read and wrote with them regularly.
Reading and writing go hand in hand in helping children develop the literacy skills they’ll need later in life, such as understanding that print has meaning. The National Early Literacy Panel determined that, for children five and under, writing ability is one of the main predictors of later literacy achievement.
But what if your children aren't old enough yet to write legible words? Children begin developing the skills used in writing long before their work becomes words! For the youngest learners, this means acquiring the fine motor skills necessary to hold and control a pencil or crayon. As they become more comfortable holding writing instruments, toddlers and preschoolers will move on to “driting,” a combination of drawing and writing. These may not be words, but the lines and pictures children draw mean something to them. By encouraging and interacting with children as their writing skills develop, you’ll show them that writing is fun and give them the means and opportunity to improve their writing at the same time, setting them up for success in the future.
Looking for new ways to introduce writing into your children's play? Here are a few options:
- Invite your children to help you make a grocery list. As you make your list, let your children draw or write down each item, too!
- Songs with motions, such as Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star help develop the fine motor skills kids need for writing.
- Ready for some messy fun? Fill the bottom of a disposable dish with sand, shaving cream, or finger paint, and let your children write and draw in it with their fingers.
- Find a pen pal! Encourage your children to write and decorate cards or letters for friends or family members.
- Reading and writing go together. Talk to your children about what they draw, and then write captions and stories together. This helps make a connection between spoken and printed language.
- Some of the first words children write are their names. Encourage your children to sign their work, even if they are just scribbles at first. It can be very empowering for children to see their words written on paper.
It’s easy to make reading and writing fun, while also ensuring your children gain necessary skills. You can also help make the connection between reading and writing with books from the library, such as these great titles!