I think it's the wanna be occupational therapist in me that was immediately drawn to The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories, a new release from Jennifer Hallissy. I've always been interested in developing fine motor skills, especially since teaching my students how to write was one of the hardest things to do. The old school teaching method is to throw worksheet after worsheet at the kids. Anyone who's ever dealt with a child who's is already frustrated and reluctant to try knows how that doesn't work! Not only are they not interested in doing their best job, they rush through it or throw a tantrum.
From the Publisher:
Jennifer Hallissy is a mom and occupational therapist who simply wanted to raise her children to love to write. In The Write Start, she shares the secrets for supporting young writers and inspiring creativity with fun activities. By giving kids a solid foundation of writing at a young age, Hallissy believes that they will develop a love for words and language that will last a lifetime.
The Write Start contains fifty-two playful activities that are presented in ways to invite your child to write, and includes reading exercises, games and crafts. Hallissy recognizes four major categories of young writers; the first, Spellers and Storytellers, encompass pre-writers and emerging writers. At these levels, children are just discovering their own coordination and understanding of letter, word and sentence structure. As children move up the ladder they are considered Storytellers and Scholars, who are more concerned with captivating an audience than mastering the alphabet.
On a larger scale, The Write Start is not only helping parents raise confident creative writers. Hallissy makes the connection between a child’s early writing skills and effective communication, as well as the connection between literacy and academic success. “Strong writing skills are vital to business and professional success, as is clear and purposeful thinking,” she writes. Giving kids a solid writing foundation at a young age not only helps them develop efficient communication skills—it may even help them succeed as an adult, and The Write Start helps parents kick-start this lifelong process.
I was glad to see the book includes a section on theory, outlining the path to writing readiness. This includes defining the stages of writing, a concept that I've found through being a classroom teacher, many parents are unware of. From the descriptions, parents will be able to pin point where their child is. Mine is in the spellers stage. This is followed by ways to support your child at each stage.
The next few chapters of the book are devoted to basic tips that are always worth seeing in text and good to have to refer back to, such as the correct pencil grip and reinforcing that developmentally appropriate tasks like cutting, playing with dough, using tongs, etc. are work and not just "playing" for our youngest writers.
This first portion of The Write Start is all good reference material but the real meat of the book is in the 52 activities divided into Learn, Make, Do, Play, and Connect. I was impressed by the variety of ideas, several were new to me. Many including ways to expose children to other concepts like 'What's in the Bag?" which supports a hands-on multi sensory approach to learn about the shape and feel of each letter. This prepares them to write letters as well as identifying them.
Each activity is presented in a clear and organized manner, starting with a brief description that provides the why behind the activity. The materials and a numbered How-To make each one easy to glance at quickly and find an appropriate one. The best part is that each one provides variations for each level of writer, making this a valuable resource that can be used again and again as your child progressed through the different developmental stages.
The Write Start is a valuable resource and reference for any parent, with easy to implement activities that will encourage interaction between parent and child and a fun learning experience. I highly recommend it to teacher and parents alike. If I was still in the classroom, I would definitely add it to my parent reference sheet.
Disclosure: This book was provided to us by Shambhala Publications, Inc. for review purposes. The opinions expressed are personal and unbiased.