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Writing to Read

One day my preschooler handed me a piece of paper with all sorts of indistinguishable squiggles written on it. "That's my name," she said proudly. My knee-jerk response was to show her the correct way to write her name. But doing so might have squelched what experts call the gradual emergence of literacy.

The Children's Research Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reports on an approach to literacy developed by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This approach, known as emergent literacy, encourages young children to "write without worrying about the mechanics of real writing." In other words, parents shouldn't get hung up on their child writing perfectly.

According to High/Scope, it's important for adults to recognize that experimentation with writing such as scribbling, drawing, and letter-like marks allows children to use comfortable, non-conventional forms of writing to express complex thoughts. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to ask questions like, "Tell me what you've written" or "That's interesting ? what about this part?" When adults respond positively to all efforts at written language, children learn that their decision to take a risk with writing was worthwhile.

To further cultivate the emergent literacy approach, it's important to understand the relationships between children's drawing, writing, and reading. Although we might not understand their scribbles or drawings, kids consider their drawings to be actual writing. When a child "writes" a story that you cannot decipher, ask the child to "read" his text. You'll be surprised how quickly he will respond with a clear message or story.

Try these ideas for fostering your child's growing ability to write:

? Provide the tools. Have a special area stocked with paper, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, or anything that will promote writing. Kids love to model their parents as we accomplish real tasks, so encourage your child to make lists, fill out pretend forms, and write letters along with you.

? Read to your child. Reading and writing skills go hand-in-hand. Kids need to see that words are written from left to right and that there are spaces between words.

? Encourage journal writing. Ask your child to "write" a story about her day, then ask her to read it to you. Keep the pages and bind them into a book that she can show her friends.

? Start teaching letter names and sounds. Integrate letters into a game. As you drive around town, see who can point out the first "C" of the day. The more your child hears and sees the letters, the faster he'll learn to associate shapes on paper with the sounds he hears.

Virtual Preschool

Pump up your child's at-home learning at www.perpetualpreschoolers.com. This cyber playhouse offers fun educational activities your child will love. A great resource for preschool teachers, this site offers a wealth of activity for parents who want to enrich their children. The Learning Center area includes art; dramatic play; language and math activities; music and movement games; outdoor fun; science and woodworking projects; snack suggestions; naptime soothers; and much more. The Theme area points you to activities for Christians, fun holiday ideas, and ways to celebrate special days. On top of all that, parents can find help with behavior issues and health and safety concerns, as well as online parenting classes.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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