Encouraging young kids to write out their letters

CurlyGirl (4) hasn't previously been overly interested in learning to write and I'm perfectly fine with that. She doesn't need to know how to read or write yet and I'm not about to try to make her a super-tot against her will. I'm always amazed when I meet a three year old who can write their own name already but I'm not about to get a bee in my bonnet thinking my kids need to be the same.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with gently encouraging an interest in reading and writing from an early age. The trick is finding a way in which they will enjoy it.

CurlyGirl has always LOVED Being read to. Over the last 4 months she has not been so keen and I have been a little sad about it. Snuggling up for story time has been an enjoyable special time together since the day she could lean back on me and listen (about 4 weeks old I think?) She even asked me to read "little women" to her when she was 3 and a half and would be happy to listen to me read her up to 5 pages at a time (no pictures). But lately she has resisted being read to. Just too busy and too many things vying for her attention. Even at bedtime!

I figured that one out. I catch her in the morning while shes still in bed. While she is stirring I come in and greet her, book in hand, and we have a morning storytime right there in bed. Shes placid enough to sit and listen, and enjoys the one on one first thing. She will still sit and flip through her books from time to time, especially now that her 17 month old brother is constantly flipping through his books chatting away in baby babble and throwing in an "oh wow!" And "whats that?" Hehe so cute.

As far as writing goes, she knows her ABC's and could identify about half of the letters until about a week ago. Now at just over 4, she can usually tell me what each letter is, and thanks to the Leapfrog Alphabet factory clip she can tell me the sound that each of the letters make, which has sparked a 24/7 "mummy, what does *insert random word here* start with? " and games of "I spy".

She has never liked copywork or been interested in tracing letters, which I have no issue with since she's only 4. But that didn't stop me from leaving the opportunity out there. She has a few of those $10 books (found in most aussie newsagencies, sometimes coles and kmart) such as "Alphabet Express" which come with cool cd-rom games. I leave them on what she calls her "learning table" and occasionally she would draw on them and trace a few letters, not often at all. She didnt mind going through a preschool one which had shape matching and other activities but as soon as it came to lettering she lost interest. We found she didnt mind tracing numbers and learning numbers so I tried having her trace the number then I would write the number for her to see and sound out its letters. (2 is spelt t-w-o.) She didnt mind that and it was a start. She really likes the cd-roms but we dont seem to use them often either because she used to get frustrated with using the mouse haha.

We did a free 12 week trial of Reading Eggs and she seemed to enjoy that but again we didn't use it enough to justify a purchase. She isnt yet over keen on computers and using the mouse. If you have a computer loving kid i'd recommend giving Reading Eggs a trial though. It was pretty good. She learned the letter S in a few minutes and loved the characters involved.

As far as getting her to try her hand at writing goes, what I have found effective is writing with a purpose. She is very black and white and everything needs to have a reason. Her question if she knew the phrase yet would likely be "what's the point?" Which is why I think what we did yesterday had such appeal to her. Usually she draws a picture Inside people's birthday cards. This time I said "why don't we sound out Alex's name and you can write it on his birthday card? This made sense to her. There was a good reason for her to make the effort. Armed with her new found knowledge of what each letter's sound makes she quite easily wrote "Alex" with a bit of help on the E. (The sound of e and i still get jumbled)
She also wrote her own name by sounding it out. While she has a tendancy to spread the letters out way to far apart and doesnt stay on the line it really doesn't matter at this stage. Its just wonderful that shes happy to give it a try! I do remind her how letters standing next to each other make a word and how books have words in straight lines. But for the most part I praise her efforts excitedly! She was quite pleased with herself.

At this rate she may be ready for a journey in phonics in a few months (kindy starts in feb) and I really wasnt expecting her to leap to that so quickly but as ive learned so far, she seems to just spring head first into a new concept and surprise me! From resisting any form of letter tracing/writing and even stubbornly refusing to tell me the answer to the question "what letter is that?" (When I know she knows!) to suddenly sounding out letters to write them from memory. Kids are amazing.

To try and pull this all together ill say this:
We have never tried to push our pre-kindy child into reading or writing. We have however always presented opportunities and fun activities/manipulatives/games to encourage learning these things and its paying off. We have learned through trial and error what works for her and what doesn't. As your little one develops interests and preferences and you begin to understand his or her personality and what makes them tick, youll start to be able to think of creative ways to hopefully instill a love of reading and even writing in your child. What worked for us may not work for you and its good to experiment.

There are so many resources for young children to learn to read and write. From gadgets like the leapfrog TAG system and apps like eggy alphabet, to simply reading to your children every day and using educational toys like blocks with letters on them. The trick is just to be mindful of learning opportunities which present themselves every day, and being ready to answer the billion questions that will inevitably begin to ask you. Don't stress out just experiment and let it happen. When your relaxed your child will see it and it will go a long way for them in all there learning, not just reading and writing.
Have a blessed day!


Birthday card writing

A couple of the $10 books I mentioned