Developing Handwriting Skills to Boost Reading Skills


One of the ways to boost your child’s reading skills is by teaching him to write his letters!  Handwriting skills and reading skills are very closely interlinked.  While reading seems like primarily a mental activity, developing handwriting skills can help kids hurdle many of the ‘normal’ reading pitfalls before they even begin to learn their letter sounds.

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Before I get to the activity in this post, I want to write a little bit about the changes that occur when you first learn to read.  A few years ago, my friends and I took a home course in education for the dyslectic child.  One of the examples on the video was poignant to everyone in our group. 

In the lecture, the speaker held up a watch.  He asked the group what it was.  They all said “A watch!”

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Then he turned the watch over.  He asked again “What is this?” 

“A watch!” 

Then he turned it upside down, and asked again “what is it?”… 

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Now folks were laughing.  They were joking with each other and starting to not pay much attention.  But many still said “A watch.” 

Then, he grabbed a large plastic, lowercase letter ‘b’.  “What is it?”  He asked.

Everyone said “b!”

He flipped it over.  “What is it?”  He asked. 

“p”

He turned it around.  “What is it?” he asked. 

Now the class was paying close attention as they answered “q” 

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He flipped it again.  “What is it?”  Very quietly, the class said: “d”

I was stunned.  I had never thought about that before at all!  For the first time it became clear that as children learn to read, we are not only asking them to remember what sounds the letters make, but also the entire skill set of directional awareness at the very same time!   

Before we were 6, a watch was a watch was a watch.  It didn’t matter which direction it was turned or whether it was flipped upside down.  As our children are learning to read, however, we are asking them to identify letters by their directional orientation and not their shape!  (A triangle is still a triangle if it is flipped upside down.) 

After that course, I dramatically changed the way I taught my children to read.  Instead of learning phonics or starting with letter sounds, I started with handwriting skills.  The idea being, that if my child can properly write the letter ‘b’, his body has the awareness of which direction that letter is made.  Then he will have FAR less trouble recognizing this letter as his brain attempts to put sounds and context to it during his early reading days.

I repeatedly used the Montessori tactic of writing in sand to assist with development of his muscle memory.

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All you need is a shallow tray and some sand.  Then you demonstrate how to make a ‘b’ with your index finger and have them do the same.  Their muscle memory will grasp the direction that their hand needs to move to create the letter ‘b’.  From them on, their eyes will naturally move in that direction when looking for a letter ‘b’.  I continued going through the letters until he could create each letter when asked.  At that point, I introduced the sounds of the letters.  I am not sure if it is a different learning style or this new tactic, but Logan is having a much easier time learning to read than my older children did.  I believe it is because he has already conquered one of the biggest pitfalls in early reading skills…. he knows how to write!

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About Val

Valerie Rose, creator of the blog Collecting the Moments… one by one spends her days cooking, gardening, and homeschooling her 4 children on her urban homestead in rainy western Washington. With camera in hand, she is constantly collecting the moments of life and encouraging others to do the same with activities and inspiration for a simple, creative household. You can find her on Pinterest, Facebook and on her homeschooling blog where she documents all the fun learning her kids do day to day.

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  1. [...] Fantastic Tool: I don’t think Finn will be working on handwriting in school next year, but he’s already eager to write and loves showing people how we can spell his name. I think this would be a great way to improve what he’s already doing! [...]