As head of the knowledge voucher project “Writing to read,” I have spent a year following the development of the WriteReader application, which aims to support children in their literacy development.
The project consisted specifically in discussions and consultancy as well as empirical research of the first use of the application. The project resulted in a positive evaluation of the application and the practices that may develop around its usage.
Studies show that reading and writing can be learned if the child is invited in the reading and writing activities in a more informal environment, where it is perceived as something natural to use the written language.
An approach that is similar where the spoken language is learned and where the learning as such does not belong to a particular age group or institution but can be learned in many contexts, including in the family. The more experience the child has with the written language, where it is perceived as something meaningful, the more experience the child will have with the connection between letters and sounds without it depending on instruction or teaching.
One of the ways to achieve these experiences is to let the child experiment with writing. The child works and experiment with the connection between letters and sounds, which is a more motivating and active process than trying to decipher what others have written.
A self-written text also invites the child to read it again, both for itself and for others, and the fact that the child has written it also makes it more accessible.
To support the child’s discovering, writing is both about inviting the child into the everyday life of existing reading and writing activities and about creating experiences and activities that can act as (new) opportunities to be together about the written language in informal and meaningful ways. A didactic writing point is not just to show children the writing, but also to show them a world that is worth writing about – and worth writing for!
It is those theoretical points this application tries to meet by creating a situation where the child can write a book based on something that is interesting and meaningful to the child. The application will as such provide the child with opportunities to play the role of an author of real multimedia stories with text, sound and images, regardless of the child’s formal literacy skill level. To play and experiment with a given identity is conducive to the child’s acquisition of both the identity and the accompanying skills and competencies. The author-identity goes hand in hand with reading and writing skills.
The application will give the child the opportunity to experiment with creating the connection between letters and sounds, but it also provides an opportunity to see and experience their own text written with conventional writing by an adult. It provides the opportunity to reflect on written language in a process where the child is co-creative and active. The application may as such be considered as one of many possible experiences with written language, which can help develop children’s writing and reading skills.