Chicken or Egg?

Miss Amoo will be eight next month and has only recently started to want to read books and Dr Who magazines or First News. However, she has been writing since she was about four and we have both paper and wall evidence of this! I’ve been ignoring the wildly grand reading skills of her schooly friends and waiting patiently, sitting on my hands. The boys were reading all sorts by her age but they were bumped into learning to read fast by being at school. My mum is a bit perplexed by this but now just about gets why I am not being ‘pro-active’ and drilling Miss Amoo til she cries or throwing her toys out or calling her garbage. (See Tiger Mom.)

Miss Froo has become excited about writing this week and after only one morning of thinking that she would like to write her name, trying it out and getting some feedback from us, has now written her name at least a dozen times and then gone and found books and bits of paper to copy the letters on them onto more bits of paper. Tonight she has demanded that Mr G write all our names down so that she can copy the letters too. Paper and pens are strewn around our house so it is not as if she has to seek out the tools to write or fight for her right to write!

I am hoping that this developmental leap is the companion of some intolerant and shouty behaviour which may be resolved at some point as her writing urge is satisfied. How busy must the inside of her head be right now? Today, after several snatched conversations with El Famosisimo, Miss Froo and J, I truly appreciated that I have no idea what is in their heads at all: any of them! Every one of the five people I live with has a mind which I cannot penetrate and understand to a great extent. Aargh! What lack of control! I knew this already but today it freed me a little bit from the anxiety that I can’t help them ‘fix’ things.

Back to the writing before reading thing; is it common that children want to write without showing much interest in reading? I’m not talking about great literary works, more about the labelling of stuff, notices and messages demands Miss Amoo has been producing for years. Maybe not all children do this but there must be some because my kids are not odd or special, at least I don’t think so.

I googled and found:

This from the DfE standards site which is a puzzle or a recipe

Main purpose: To teach children one grapheme for each of the 44 phonemes in order to read and spell simple regular words.

Outcome: Children link sounds to letters naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet. They recognise letter shapes and say a sound for each. They hear and say sounds in the order in which they occur in the word, and read simple words by sounding out and blending the phonemes all through the word from left to right. They recognise common digraphs and read some high frequency words.

Typical duration: Up to 12 weeks.

This from WikiAnswers which is obviously written by someone who thinks that we only have in our heads what has been put in there by someone else

You can incorporate more words into your writing if you have a better vocabulary.

Then this abstract which makes more sense to me

The phrase “reading and writing” reflects the implicit assumption that reading comes first and that writing must follow. First graders can “write” all the words they can say, albeit in their own manner and using invented spelling. Encouraging this kind of writing gives children control over letters and texts, giving them an understanding that they need ultimately for reading. The word learning itself tends to promote reading over writing because we often assume learning refers to input, not output, that it’s a matter of putting other people’s ideas inside us. Writing is more caught up with meaning making, however, and encourages students to break out of their characteristically passive stance in school and in learning. “Reading tends to imply ‘Sit still and pay attention’, whereas writing tends to imply ‘Get in there and do something.’” It’s not the case that putting writing first–output before input–will encourage rampant individualism. Reading and writing are joined, in fact, at the hip. Students will put more care into reading when they have had more of a chance to write.

How many children are tormented by reading and made to feel that the world is alien to them because they can’t read at age 5? How many children aren’t allowed to have access to pens in case they draw on the sofa so never discover that writing might be their thing right now?

Over the years I’ve seen many adults learn new literacy and numeracy skills at ages well beyond the point where most parents have long since given up on them or died thinking their adult child was a bit dim. Their moment comes, something happens and it all comes together, often in a rush of excitement. That is what has lead me to believe that it is not worth panicking about and hanging on to see what happens may show you something that you didn’t expect. I do feel bad for all those people who may have had a desire like Miss Froo’s but had it stamped on at some point or their moment came and no-one nurtured it.


2 Comments to “Chicken or Egg?”

  1. Fantastic.

    Out of my 4 offspring I have 3 writers, yet only one reader and one who’s still allergic to holding any pen/pencil but who can read the titles of his favourite programmes on the on-screen TV Listings. I’m not really sure how to proceed so have decided not to for as long as I can hold out. And yes we have very graffitti’d chairs and walls, sheets, pillows, clothes, storybooks, toys, car windows, body parts…….

  2. I know someone who has been writing lists etc for years and is now saying ‘I’m reading’ when I interrupt him while he’s online. We are now rereading lots of books like the Gruffalo and Percy the Park-keeper for old times’ sake.

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