Early literacy instruction is a complex process. There is no question that this process is a valuable part of a student’s learning and helps create a solid foundation for future growth. There are countless strategies and methods to helping children to read and write. As such, every teacher will approach literacy instruction differently. Many people believe that a student must learn to read first and learn to write second. From this perspective, reading is a stepping stone to writing. This assumes that literacy develops in a very linear progression.

An alternate understanding of helping children to read and write is based on an understanding of reading and writing as reciprocal. The reciprocal perspective maintains that learning to read and learning to write are processes that complement one another. Marie Clay has championed this concept, producing research to support the benefits of identifying reading and writing as reciprocal. Teachers who subscribe to this methodology teach reading and writing at the same time, eliminating any boundaries that separate these skills. This path to literacy instruction requires a fluid school schedule instead of one that separates reading and online writing courses into different blocks in the school day.

Once you’ve done your research, you can present the information to your child in a variety of ways. You could approach the task as you would ‘reading time’ with your child, and read from your sources. Alternatively, you could set up a study space in your house where you can sit and learn with your children. Regardless of how you present or share the information with your children, it is important that you provide them with an opportunity to do a bit of creating on their own.

Based on this viewpoint, young children will recall text they have encountered as they begin to write. Likewise, they evaluate their spelling skills as they read. Here’s an example: imagine that a teacher asks a young boy to spell the word “bone”. Sounding it out, he writes “b-o-n”. At this point, the teacher adds the “e” at the end. The child then exclaims, “Oh yeah! That’s how I remember seeing it at the science centre!”

In sum, helping children to read and writing go hand in hand. Hence, it is valuable to treat reading and writing as complementary, rather than separate skills. Early literacy instructors see great gains when employing reciprocal instruction. For more information on Clay’s work on the reciprocal relationship of reading and writing, consult this reference:

Clay, M. M. (1998). The power of writing in early literacy. In M. M. Clay, By different paths to common outcomes (pp. 130-161). York, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.

For more information regarding early literacy instruction and academic support, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space 416.925.1225 or visit http://www.ruthrumack.com.

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