Printing Practice: Key
to Reading and Writing?
grandfather who helped his own grandchildren learn to read has worked with
kindergarten teachers to determine the keys to reading success and is convinced
that a lot of practice with simple printing of letters is how to bring a child
to the threshold of reading.
It has to
do with the children's ability to visualize the shapes of the letters instantly
as they see them in reading, because they had a lot of practice kinesthetically
forming the letters with paper and pencil. The more fluently and accurately
they could print the alphabet letters, he found, the more fluently and
accurately they could read. Virtually all children who are lagging behind in
reading in the early grades of school cannot print the alphabet letters very
Bob Rose of
Jasper, Ga., conducted an ad hoc field trial of 106 kindergartners, using a
yahoo! listserv joined by kindergarten teachers around the country, who pre-
and post-tested their pupils.
the idea dates to education innovator Maria
Montessori, who contended in 1912 that if kindergartners got sufficient
practice printing alphabet letters, they soon would learn to read spontaneously
and successfully. Reading expert Marilyn Jager Adams has noted that, down through
the centuries just until recent times, children were guided to consistently
print words in spelling drills as the main way of inducing literacy.
concluded that, if the shapes of the alphabet letters aren't extremely familiar
to a child through lots of printing practice, the child's mind has to decode
text too slowly as it recognizes the individual letters. Reading disability is
sure to result if that isn't corrected. He quotes the Roman rhetorician, Marcus
Fabius Quintilianus ( ca. A.D. 35-98?), as saying, "Too slow a hand
impedes the mind."
urges parents to give their pre-kindergarten children printing practice, but
don't overdo it. Because of the limited attention span of the typical 4- or
5-year-old, he suggested that you keep the practice sessions to about five
minutes. It's best if your child can do this printing at a low table or desk,
in a comfortable chair, with both feet flat on the ground, so that the child is
seated in balance and able to form the strokes effortlessly.
your child the proper pencil grip and how to tilt the paper to the left just a
bit (left-handed children will tilt to the right).
an alphabet guide at a school supply store that shows with arrows how to make
the strokes of the letters, along with short, lightweight pencils and guideline
paper, and let the child practice at his or her own pace for a while. It's OK
if the child just wants to make all-capital letters at first, although the vast
majority of letters in text are lower-case, so you might want to shift to them
by and by.
a few days or weeks doing this for just a few minutes here and there, the
parent can begin timed tests - but don't worry, only for 20 seconds at a time.
See how many legible alphabet letters your child can print in 20 seconds.
Multiply it by three to get the letters per minute rate.
believes the "threshold" pace for a beginning reader is about 40 letters per
By Susan Darst Williams • www.GoBigEd.com • Grammar Granny
049 • © 2007