This past week an important event took place. With excitement and pride, my three year-old came running into the kitchen exclaiming, "Mommy, I wrote my name!" The sheer joy in his voice was enough to make me jump up and down, but when I saw the product of his efforts I immediately shared a massive hug in celebration of this big accomplishment.
Now I remind you, we are talking about a three year-old. Did my son write his name perfectly? Most certainly not. Did he even write the letters in order? Not necessarily. Then, you ask, what was I so excited about? As preschool children first begin to write it initially appears as random scribbling. Yet, even at this stage, children are able to distinguish between the "writing" and the "picture." As children further their understanding of written language they begin to invent letter-like forms, which may include actual letters and numbers. This first display of independently created letter-like forms is what we honored this past week.
Emergent literacy is a term that refers to the ongoing and developmental process of understanding and using written language (Morrow, Strickland, & Woo, 1998). There are a few key concepts children acquire in the preschool years that help shape their early literacy experience when it comes to writing. A few include:
Research has concluded there are many important steps that lead up to the point where a child begins writing conventional letters on the page. In reality, this attention to the formal aspects of print and correspondence with sound is the final step in a progression, not the entry point to understanding what written language is (Clay, 1991).
How have I encouraged basic writing skills at an appropriate level? For starters, there are numerous invitations to learn throughout the house and our writing/coloring area is no different. From the moment this spot was introduced, with the setup of toddler-friendly table and chairs, I made it known this was a place to:
Furthermore, I support a print-rich environment where reading books, magazines, etc. is part of our play time and bedtime routine. Books are stored in accessible places for children and considered part of our play collection. Everyone is involved in creating grocery lists, holiday cards, thank you notes, and other writing activities. Most importantly, reading and writing are modeled as part of our every day life. Everyone (regardless of age) is exposed to print in the most ordinary of circumstances and encouraged to experiment/explore as they interact with one another (e.g. share a story, take a picture walk through book together, etc.).
Our special writing moment this week was a reminder that all the exposure to print and opportunity to explore written expression are paying off. It is still to early to tell whether or not this eager toddler will be a serious journalist, but for now we've got the basics down...a love of learning, willingness to try new skills, and desire to celebrate the effort!
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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