Traditional practice allowed children to write only after they could write most of the letters and spell basic words correctly so as to not produce bad habits.

The emergent literacy research of Sulzby, Teale, and Kamberelis indicated that children learn many new concepts about letters and words. Equally important, they developed the confidence that besides making letters correctly and spelling words conventionally, they could write to communicate, to tell something they wanted to say. As Cunningham states, children “are not ruined by being allowed to write before they can write.”

Both reading and writing involve understanding the graphophonic relationship between letters and sounds based on the alphabetic principle. Whether children learn this relationship for reading or for writing does not matter since both processes require an understanding of this code.

If both reading and writing are taught together from the beginning, children will understand how print works. One process informs the other. Both reading and writing require the same skills and processes to gain fluency in reading and control of the language through writing. Both reading and writing teach thinking processes-analysis, inference, generalizations, and evaluating. For more information see Comprehension Strategies.

Hansen concludes “When children compose in daily writing workshops, read their writing, share, receive responses, revise, and edit for the purpose of meaning-making – when they are involved in the writing process, they naturally integrate multiple strategies for working with written language, which carries into their reading processes. Reading and writing mingle, complement, and augment each other as children learn written language.”

Cunningham also discusses the importance of the reading-writing relationship for young children. For more information see Language Development. Just as children pretend to read from a memorized book, they also pretend to write before they know the actual letters of words.

Adults may not be able to read their scribbles, and children themselves may read back variations of scribbled messages. They progress from writing scribbles anywhere to a left-right orientation. They make marks that may look like letters. They underline some letters to indicate the boundaries of words. Soon they write a single letter to stand for one word. They use pictures interspersed with the letters to make words. They copy words from environmental print and from books and write notes.

Running Record Assessment

Two common ways of assessing word identification are reading words on lists and reading text orally.

  • Children’s accuracy of the oral reading of stories is also a measure of word identification. The procedure used to assess oral reading accuracy is called a running record.
  • A pencil, paper, and a piece of text are needed for a running record.
    • Why do a running record?
      • To observe a student’s word identification strategies.
      • To assess growth in the difficulty of texts that the student can read successfully.