The value of writing in early childhood

Authored by: Deborah Wells Rowe

The Routledge International Handbook of early Literacy Education

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138787889
eBook ISBN: 9781315766027
Adobe ISBN: 9781317659204


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This chapter reviews research describing what children learn through early writing experiences from birth to age six. Component skills studies show that writing words using invented spelling is positively related to reading sub-skills (e.g. phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge), and to later independent reading, writing and spelling. Writing longer texts requires children to orchestrate transcription skills such as handwriting and invented spelling, and is also related to children’s developing oral language skills. Sociocultural research shows that children begin building foundational understandings about writing by age two. Play provides important opportunities, motivation and shared contexts for writing. Across the preschool years, children form and test progressively more sophisticated hypotheses about writing processes and genre features. Through emergent writing, children form identities as writers, metacognitively reflect on writing processes and text features, and learn about the social uses of print. Although empirical research builds a strong case for the importance of writing in early childhood, many preschoolers have few opportunities to compose their own texts using emergent writing. I argue that the dissemination of research-based information on early writing development and supportive preschool writing contexts should be given high priority in educational efforts directed at parents, caregivers and teachers of young children.

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