Writing is a crucial literacy milestone for children, and without proper scaffolding, children may be missing out on important social interaction skills. Language is innate in neurotypical children, and children need external support to learn standard writing.
Emergent literacy is the process by which children learn to read and write, starting from their 12th month. It is crucial to understand their developmental stages to provide the necessary resources. Children express themselves through writing from 2 years old, with the specific timeline varying by individual children. Barry Kroll, a linguist who specialises in speaking-writing relationships, suggests that there are four broad phases in learning to write (1981):
- Preparation phase – In this phase, children learn to handle a pencil, form letters and copy words for themselves.
- Consolidation phase – Children can write independently without copying but they can produce only what they know in speech. They are generally about 7 years old when they reach this stage.
- Differentiation phase – Writing and speech become palpably different for children and they have drawn clear distinctions on what is to be spoken and written. Children are around 9 to 10 years old when they move into this phase.
- Integration phase – The writer can deliberately manipulate the differences and even deliberately mix them to achieve effects. This is not something everyone will be able to reach and is usually achieved through specialisation.
These phases prepare children to deal with the highly digitalised world which is steeped in writing. Frequently used communication platforms like Whatsapp and Telegram uses typing which is essentially a digital form of writing. The median age of a technology user keeps decreasing as proved by the term ‘i-pad kid’. This phenomenon highlights the importance of scaffolding your child to write.
Children start writing with random scribbling. As they grow, they assign meaning to these scribbles and use them to represent objects or ideas, creating drawings and associations with specific words or concepts, even if they don’t resemble the actual object. Next, children develop letter-like shapes by imitating familiar letters, such as the alphabets in their names, demonstrating an understanding of the relationship between written and spoken language. They move on to using their familiar letters and sounds in written language, resulting in invented spelling. Despite the incorrect spelling, they are demonstrating their ability to represent words. Finally, they write for a purpose by engaging in writing activities like lists, letters, and stories, enhancing their understanding of writing’s functions and communication with others.
Fathers play a major role in encouraging children to learn to write. Letting your children see you write is a great way to show them how writing fits into daily life and it offers a chance to explain why we write and in what context. Help your child see how necessary writing is and how enjoyable it can be. Your kids can then get involved in practical writing activities at home, such as contributing to the family calendar, diary, noticeboard, or messages on the fridge. In addition, parents can follow the tips below to further scaffold their children’s writing process.
- Pencil awareness:
Support emergent writing by providing materials like crayons and pencils, even small sticks, and encouraging children to hold them. Different children have varying preferences for holding tools, which can be discovered through exposure to writing behaviours. A comfortable penmanship style boosts confidence in starting writing.
- Print Awareness:
Introduce your child to writing by exposing them to various reading materials, such as logos, signs, and labels, which carry meaning. Compare the nutritional label content on food packaging and mail. Texts in various genres, such as nutritional labels and mail, inform consumers about health benefits and bills to be paid. Exposing children to environmental print helps them recognize and understand the significance of each print, enabling them to identify familiar words and associate them with their meanings, laying the groundwork for reading and writing.
Less than half of Singaporeans read literary books as adults, possibly due to a lack of love for reading and writing. Storytelling, a crucial activity, increases the connection between parents and children, building cognitive, social, and emotional development. Re-telling stories builds communication skills, enabling children to easily translate their thoughts on paper. Reading storybooks to children fosters a private, private connection, and fosters a deeper understanding of literature.
- Phonological Awareness:
Teaching phonological awareness to children improves their literacy skills and writing abilities. By guiding them on letter-sound associations, they become more phonologically aware, boosting their confidence to write more.
In conclusion, encourage reading together, exposing them to different forms of written text, and making the learning experience fun and interactive. Tailor activities to your child’s interests and abilities and celebrate their progress. Most importantly, create an environment that promotes a love for language and communication!
This article is contributed by Singapore Asia Publishers. Red more at https://sapgrp.com/blogs/