Reading and Writing

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 567–589 | Cite as

From scribbles to scrabble: preschool children’s developing knowledge of written language

  • Cynthia S. Puranik
  • Christopher J. Lonigan


The purpose of this study was to concurrently examine the development of written language across different writing tasks and to investigate how writing features develop in preschool children. Emergent written language knowledge of 372 preschoolers was assessed using numerous writing tasks. The findings from this study indicate that children demonstrate knowledge about writing before beginning school and receiving formal instruction. There was clear evidence to support the claim that universal writing features develop before language-specific features. Children as young as 3 years possess knowledge regarding universal and language-specific writing features. Preschoolers appear to progress along a continuum from scribbling to conventional spelling. Although this progression is sequential, children’s writing proficiency is task dependent. Implications of these findings on writing development are discussed.


Emergent literacy Emergent writing Language development Preschool Writing Written language 



This work was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD052120) and the Institute of Education Science, US Department of Education (R305A080488). Portions of this work were completed while the first author was supported by a postdoctoral training grant (R305B050032) from the Institute of Education Science, US Department of Education. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and have not been reviewed or approved by the granting agencies. The authors would like to thank Marcy Wyatt and the members of the Preschool Research Group's Assessment Team at the Florida Center for Reading Research for their assistance with data collection, and Stephanie Cute and Lindsay Keffer at the University of Pittsburgh for their assistance with data entry, and scoring.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication Science and DisordersUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Florida Center for Reading ResearchFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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