Ask most teachers and they will say that children grow so fast in the later part of the school year that it can be sometimes hard to keep up with them! Now is the time when skills children have been working so hard on come to fruition. Physical and self-help skills that at the beginning of the school year were so consuming are suddenly easier for children to manage. Their social skills have developed to a point where children are able to navigate the waves of friendships (which can come and go) with an ease that comes from a stronger sense of self. But most importantly, the top emerging skills at this time of the year are related to reading and writing. Every parent likes to hear this!

“I know what that says!”
Often at this time of year children are starting to get excited about reading and writing. This does not mean that every child is reading “word for word” or is writing “perfectly”. What it does mean is that at this stage the interest level is so high that children are making a greater effort to express thoughts with writing and are using many different clues to “read” the world around them.  At this stage of development your child is using color, size, shape and context to read everything from the “stop sign” to the popular store signs. This is an important emerging skill that he will apply to reading words in books. Reading at this stage is more than recognizing the words on the page. Much in the same way that he is using the “cues” to read signs, your child may be using the illustrations on the page, the context of the story and even the shape of the word on the page as strategies for reading a book. He may have memorized part of the story or is retelling it in his own words but this is still reading. This is a precious time of reading exploration you can support by recognizing and celebrating these early reading strategies your child is using to “read”. Tell your child when you notice he what he is doing by saying “You are reading!” This helps your child begin to see himself as a reader.

“Mommy, look what I wrote!”
You may have noticed that your child is at a stage where he wants to express himself with writing. In fact, his writing may be less neat than it was earlier in the year. In a hurry to express a thought or make an announcement, he may forgo writing perfectly for writing copiously. It is essential to recognize the importance of your child’s need to express thoughts and content at this stage and not pressure him to write “perfect” letters. One reason why handwriting can be less neat at this stage is because your child is beginning to see writing not just for “letter and name writing practice” but also more as a means of communication. Sometimes at this stage children will scribble many lines of “writing” that doesn’t make sense to you but he can read it to you with great understanding and expression.  It is also common and normal for children to reverse letters at this stage so don’t worry if some reversals show up now. The goal here is for your child to see how to use writing in all its forms. Lists, stories, signs and notes are common ways your child will delight in writing. Be patient, the neater letters will come soon enough. Right now celebrate your child’s understanding that writing is communication!

How You Can Help:

  • Ask your child to read books to you but do not expect the reading to be “word-for-word”. Allow your child his own interpretation and expression.
  • Show enthusiasm for your child’s effort at using clues to decode to read the words in a variety of settings.
  • Understand that your child’s beginning attempts at writing mirrors how he learned to talk. He didn’t speak in words at first but used sounds like ba-ba to communicate. Learning to write works the same way. His beginning writing will include drawing scribbles, making marks, and repeatedly writing the letters of his own name as a means of expression.
  • Demonstrate and share in all forms of writing such as list making, message taking, and thank you cards.
  • Set up a writing area in the house (with paper, magazines, pens and crayons) where your child can go to draw/write spontaneously.