Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Aid Your Child's Development of Writing Skills: The Often Forgotten Half of the Literacy Equation

Literacy by definition is the ability to read and write. 

There is a lot of information regarding the importance of reading aloud to young children.  While parents are constantly bombarded with information on how to get their child to become a better reader, or how to get their child to love to read, or how to read aloud to their child, there seems to be much less information on how parents can foster the development of writing skills in their child.

And, writing is the other half of the literacy equation.  I think Pam Allyn (2011), Executive Director and founder of LitWorld, describes the relationship between reading and writing best in her book titled Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age,

"Reading and writing are inextricably connected in ways that current research in education is showing to be more remarkable than we've ever understood before.  It is a constant circle and we are too often missing half of it. A child who reads regularly is a better writer. A child who writes regularly is a better reader. While reading, a child is ingesting words, and by writing he is practicing with them. Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out."
(pg 9)

Much like the journey of learning to read that can and should begin at a very young age, the development of writing skills can and should begin with babies and toddlers, too.

Yes, you can begin to raise a reader and a writer from birth.

Here are few ways to help your child develop readiness skills in writing.  Some of these suggestions are things that may come naturally, such as play, but others may take a little time and effort on your part.  But, I encourage you to start today!

1) give your child the gift of play time.

Play (both solitary or group play, and guided play) is a fabulous skill builder.  In fact, it not only helps your child to gain reading skills, social skills, motor skills, and listening skills, but it even helps to foster the development of writing skills.  How?  According to Allyn (2011), play helps children learn narrative, time, and setting - three important elements of writing.

2) be a model writer.

It's not a secret that children learn through observation.  In fact, famed psychologist Albert Bandura proposed social learning theory decades and decades ago.  Parents who want their children to read more, should model good reading behaviors.  The same goes for writing.

Write out your grocery list.  Carry a notebook and jot down ideas as they come to you.  Take the time to write thank you notes to friends and family.  Keep a journal.

My notebook that travels with me in every room of our house;
as you can see, a little baby bookworm wanted to write in it too!

Daddy's notebook that he keeps next to the bed - just in case inspiration strikes

3) live and breathe words.

Have you ever walked into a daycare or preschool classroom and noticed labels on everything?  They aren't there because a teacher went a little nutty one day.  They are there to help children learn the value of print. Try doing the same thing at home.  And, if you don't want labels all over your house, Allyn  (2011)has two clever and creative solutions to try.  She suggests cutting out words and framing them, or creating a box where newly learned words are placed.  Simple and yet genius.  And don't forget, reading is one great way to help your child learn new vocabulary

You can even incorporate writing and words into your play time.  It's as easy as setting out a marker or crayon, and a piece of paper.  The play kitchen you have can then become a restaurant - you become the diner and your child the waiter who writes down your order. 

4) make writing special.

Do you have a reading nook in your house?  Do you read bedtime stories or stories at some other time of the day? 

What about a space and materials for writing? What about a time that you and your child write together?  What do you do with all of your child's drawings and "stories"?

Don't forget your child needs a special place to read and to write.  It also makes writing seem more special if you have a  place and method for keeping or displaying those stories your child worked so hard to create!

Our space for reading and writing
Our folder for art work, projects, and stories

5) provide a writing scaffold.

This tip is especially true for young children since their "writing" begins as scribbles and drawings.  You can't exactly hand a baby a crayon and say "Go to it! Write me a story!" 

Try drawing a picture together and then asking your child, "What did we draw?" Label the people and objects in your drawing.  Write down exactly what your child says about the picture.  Encourage him or her to tell a story about the picture, and model how to do so.

Books can also provide a great starting point for a writing activity, and provide a little motivation, too.  Try reading Harold and the Purple Crayon together.  Invite your child to be like Harold and draw with a purple crayon.

My Crayons Talk is another book that could easily be the beginning of a fun writing project.

So now you know how to help your child's writing skills, but what exactly does does writing "look" like with babies and toddlers?

More on this later in the week!


  1. One of the things I have done is to keep post its and small notebooks in my purse for the kids to write in. It is amazing how inspiring posts its are!

  2. That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing!


Blogger Widgets