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Stages of Writing Development

baby and crayonWhen we think about early literacy, most often what comes to mind is reading. However, writing is an important part of early literacy as well. Learning to read and learning to write are both important literacy processes, and they support each other.

Writing, as with other accomplishments of young children, develops in stages. Toddlers begin their journey to writing by first noticing that an adult is making marks on paper. They often want to know what the adult is doing and want to copy the actions. It is important to allow children the access to writing implements so that they can begin handling the tools they will need to write. Often, in child-care centers and preschool classrooms, the access to these writing tools is either very limited or unavailable. Many child-care providers do not see the value of letting children use these tools until they are in preschool. Research has shown, however, that children begin to make marks at a very early age if they are provided marking tools, a safe place to play, and a surface that they can apply their marks to (Gardner, 1980; Baghban, 1984; Schickedanz, 1990). By the time a child is 3 years old, he will often try to make marks that look like writing. Very young children intently watch the movements of a writing utensil to see what type of mark is made, then they deliberately vary their actions to see the results (Gibson, 1975). By allowing young children the opportunity to explore writing tools, we are enabling them to learn about the relationship between hand movements and the various types of marks that can be made.

According to Judith Schickedanz, in her book Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Stages of Reading and Writing, learning to write involves many aspects other than learning to form alphabet letters. It involves understanding

  • The level of speech that alphabet letters represent.
  • The ways in which print is organized on a page.
  • The purposes for which writing is used.
  • The various conventions associated with various purposes.
  • That the writer must think about the reader’s reaction to the writing.

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