Monday, November 14, 2011

Fostering Your Child's Writing Skills

by Dan Gilbert

Children are curious creatures and they want to understand everything -- from why clouds appear in the sky to how the television works. They are also intrigued by what grown-ups are doing when they have a pen or pencil in their hand. When a child first gets hold of a crayon or marker and starts scribbling in zigs, zags or loops, they are making an effort to emulate you when you're writing.

“Children watch adults as they write notes, checks, and stories, and they are eager to begin writing themselves. Early writing is oftentimes labeled ‘scribble writing’ and is considered a legitimate form of emergent writing,” says Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education, Primrose Schools. Children are going to attempt to write long before embarking on their preschool education. These first attempts are going to look nothing like real words or pictures, but should be celebrated nonetheless. Your child is trying to learn how to write, and that is something very special.

Observe your child, and see what exactly they are trying to do with that crayon. “The first conscious attempts a child makes to write a letter are usually the first letter of his or her name. To an adult, the attempts may only vaguely resemble the letter, but these are moments to cherish and celebrate,” says Dr. Zurn. The important part is that they are writing, and not their penmanship or personal style.

The key to helping your child develop their writing abilities is teaching them that writing is a method of conveying language, so they don't worry if their letters are malformed. The more you focus on precision, the less they are going to enjoy writing. Writing is different from penmanship. As your child develops a love of writing, you can slowly fix how their letters look and teach them the proper way to hold their writing implement.

Make sure to keep everything they need to enjoy writing nearby. Keep a cool head as they begin. Soon you are going to have a child who is ready to face school and beyond because you have fostered in them good writing habits.

• Have them explain to you what they are writing. Make suggestions about how to make their work better, but never chastise them.

• The more you read with your child, the more they are going to understand that the words you are saying are the words on the page.

• Never turn them away when they are asking about writing-related tasks. If you are making a grocery list, let them see the list, and perhaps even ask them to help by adding something to the list. Always praise them for having done the job, and you will see them do it even better next time.

• Writing on the computer is still writing. Don't be surprised if your child figures out aspects of writing with a computer before they do with paper. The ease of seeing the letters on the keyboard move to the screen might help them more than trying to form the letters on paper and being frustrated that they aren't precisely the same.

Dan Gilbert is Marketing Support Coordinator at Primrose Schools, which operates early childhood education centers nationwide.

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