I was recently sent The Write Start - A guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories by Jennifer Hallissy to review, it arrived just after we got back from the UK and because of all the craziness going on I have only just got chance to sit down and read properly.
As a teacher and a Montessorian there are a lot of things that I agree with in the book, the first section talks about the importance of writing and how it can affect a child's success at school and later on in life and also the importance of scribbling, as you know I am a big fan of scribbling. Jennifer also points out that good writers make good readers and that writing first will help with the development of reading. This is also a Montessori concept, the skills used in reading and writing are completely different, take the word hat for example, to a new reader they will break up the word, look at each letter one at a time and sound it out h-a-t then put the letters back together to sound out the whole word whereas with writing they build the word one letter at a time, encoding rather than decoding. Now add an e to the end of the word so that you have hate, reading it makes the decoding one more step more difficult but writing is the same.
It is points like these in the book that I think would be really useful for parents with no teaching background. Another point that she makes is about the use of technology and how that can hinder a child's reading and writing development, something that really needs addressing in this age of technology.
I really like how the next section breaks the child's level down into four; scribblers, spellers, storytellers and scholars and gives plenty of information and ideas to help your child whichever level they are at. Ebi-kun is at the storyteller stage so I was pleased to see that there are 52 ideas and activities to encourage your little writer and a range to cover all levels. Ebi-kun is already a list writer (takes after mommy there) and he also likes to label pictures that he has drawn. He enjoyed the 'fill in the blanks story' that I photocopied from the back of the book and we will be trying some of the other exercises over the coming weeks.
So, the final conclusion, as a Montessorian and ESL teacher I probably wouldn't have bought this book myself, many of the ideas to encourage writing are the same or similar to Montessori equipment - the sand tray, sandpaper letters, making letters from clay plus ideas on how to strengthen the arm and pincer muscles. Without specific training I think many people wouldn't realise that much of the Montessori equipment is designed with this as a secondary purpose, the book gives lots of ideas on how to do this and you don't need to rush out and buy a load of special equipment. I think it would also be useful for those who are interested in the Montessori method and maybe apply some of it at home but don't have any formal training.
The books is well written, the tone of the book is that of a guide not like you are being lectured to and there are a lot of great ideas on how to make writing fun and how to introduce writing without the child even realising. I would definitely recommend it to friends and to those who are struggling to get their kids interested in reading and writing. I think it would also be handy for those of us who are raising bilingual children and know that the English teaching is going to be done at home and can't rely on the school to educate your child and for anyone who has a child who is struggling with writing and reading.
If you want to learn more about Jennifer, Jean did a great interview a couple of weeks ago at the Artful Parent and you can find Jennifers blogging at The Write Start