Learning About Writing Begins Informally

  • Sarah Robins
  • Rebecca Treiman
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 2)


The first few years of formal schooling focus on teaching children how to read and write. In this chapter, we explore what children may learn about written language prior to receiving formal instruction. Specifically, we review evidence suggesting that children acquire information about the surface and deeper features of language through informal interactions with their parents and other adults. For example, children learn about the surface features of language (the general features of print, as well as features of words and letters) through exposure to print in their environment and through activities such as learning about the alphabet. Children may also begin to learn about the deeper features of print (how writing symbolizes language) through interactions with their parents that suggest that written language is in some ways similar to spoken language. The research findings suggest that children learn a good deal about written language prior to instruction in school but that their knowledge may be restricted to elements of the language that are particularly salient to them, such as their own names. Recognizing the role that these experiences play in shaping young children’s knowledge of written language offers new avenues of research, as well as suggestions for how to improve formal education in reading and writing.


Symbol System Deep Feature Storybook Reading Literate Society Letter Shape 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Work of this chapter was supported in part by NIH grant HD051610.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Washington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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