There is increased attention to writing instruction and the importance of writing skills to later life success. Below are five ways you can model writing as a communication tool.
1. Have a family message board
Use the message board as a way to model writing as a form of communication. You can
a. Encourage your child to watch adults leave messages for one another.
b. Read those messages aloud in your child's presence.
c. Write messages to your child on the board. For example, on the day that you are going to visit a grandma or grandpa, you could write "Today we are going to Gigi's house!" and show your child the message over breakfast.
2. Make lists
If you and your child are spending the day together, make a list that outlines your plan for your day. If you are doing the writing, let your child watch you write the plan. You will want them to see that you begin at the top of a piece of paper, write from left to right and then return to the left for the next line. Say the words slowly as you write them.
Making grocery lists is another way to model writing. If you make a grocery list and take your child grocery shopping with you, draw a little picture next to some known items. Give your child a pencil and the list and allow him/her to cross off the item once it is in your cart.
3. Make a calendar
Give your child his or her own calendar and use it as part of your bedtime routine. Record special events on the calendar. At the end of each day, talk about what your child did. Let him or her dictate what he or she wishes you to record for the day. At the end of each month you have a written record of your month!
4. Write notes
Writing notes, such as thank you notes and letters/postcards to friends, cousins, grandparents, teachers, etc., is an important way to communicate the importance of writing as a communication tool. If your child is not yet writing, have your child sit next to you at a table and dictate thank you notes for holiday and birthday gifts.
5. Make a small book about a recent experience
Stack two or three pieces of paper, fold them in half, and staple the edge. Then create your own book using an experience the child has had. For example, after a birthday party, you may wish to write about and illustrate the guests. "I went to Mila’s birthday party." could be on page one with a drawing of Mila; "George was at the party." could be on page two with an illustration, and so on. “We played with water.” could be on page three. Depending on your child’s age, you can help with the illustrations or the child can add the illustrations. You can also make simple pattern books (I like to jump. I like to swim. I like to run.)
Suggestions modified from Ready for Reading: A Handbook for Parents of Preschoolers, by A. Bishop, R.H. Yopp, H.K. Yopp, 2000 edition, p. 37-39.