I believe that when you entice children to write at a young age it helps to lay the foundation for an understanding of the importance of language development and reading later on. When I say 'write', in reference to preschoolers, I am not meaning letters, tracing or worksheets. Simply using various mediums (crayons, paint, markers etc.) to allow children to express themselves and to connect with others is a form of writing.
The best way to encourage writing is to offer meaningful writing experiences. When writing your grocery list, offer your child the tools to write their own list. When going through the mail, suggest your child 'write' a letter to a family member or friend and actually mail the letter. Even having your children dictate to you what their picture is all about is a great way for children to see you put their thoughts into words.
Providing opportunities for children to 'write' anytime they wish is also helpful to encourage young writers. Now leaving writing tools out in the open and accessible at all times may sound scary to many of you - I have to admit, I have not done this in the past with the Nursery School program. I always pictured children adding their own details to my wall murals and decorating my padded floor! However, when I have thought more about this idea and having seen how my son, Ewan, interacts with his writing materials I think the benefits far outweigh the risks. In addition, providing the right tools can also make all the difference. I have created a writing caddy for both Ewan and the Nursery School writing centre that includes crayons, pencil crayons and markers (all washable of course, let's not get too crazy!), as well as a variety of paper (coloured, lists, letter paper), envelopes and stamps (even just penny stamps to add to the imaginative factor). With all of these items at his finger tips he never strays far from the caddy and always has plenty of inspirations as opposed to getting bored and moving to the walls. The caddy is also just a basket that is portable and can be moved from one room to another and even outside if that is where his inspiration strikes.
I also include an alphabet chart in the caddy just so that Ewan is exposed to the letters of the alphabet. In past years, the students in the Nursery School program have created alphabet books over the course of the year to demonstrate their progress in writing skills. However, I will not be continuing this practice this year as I feel there are more effective hands-on activities to allow children to explore the concept of letters. This year, students will be exploring letters by identifying them around the class, and making the motions in various mediums such as sand, paint, sensory bags and creating the letters using natural materials found all around them. Again, all children develop at their own pace and by no means need to be 'writing' letters at the preschool level. But, I do feel it is important to create a print-rich environment where children are exposed to letters and words.
I would encourage everyone to create a space dedicated to writing in their home, even a basket with plain paper and a few crayons, and observe any changes that may arise in your child.
Several spaces are still available in the afternoon program, so please pass the word to family and friends. For more information on the Nursery School Program, please visit http://www.agymtale.com/Nursery_School.htm. This is going to be an exciting year filled with new experiences!