Writing in the early years

Authored by: Helen Bradford , Dominic Wyse

The Routledge International Handbook of English, Language and Literacy Teaching

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  February  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415469036
eBook ISBN: 9780203863091
Adobe ISBN: 9781135183141


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For many decades children’s first writing efforts were all but ignored by researchers. Writing was considered a subject of school instruction but of little interest beyond this. Hildreth’s (1936) paper on developmental sequences in name writing, considered to be groundbreaking for the time, cited just ten references spanning the period 1910 to 1934. It is now understood that children who grow up in a literate environment do not wait until school or other formal instruction to explore the features of writing. They are already experimenting from a very early age, before they begin to understand the alphabetic principle and despite the fact that the writing produced might not be conventional from the perspective of an adult. Such early experimentation has generally been termed emergent literacy (Teale and Sulzby, 1986; Hall, 1987). The theory of emergent literacy portrays young children as having had relatively little experience of writing, rather than as being unable to write, and as active enquirers into the nature and purposes of literacy.

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