A Place of Our Own
About the Series Feedback Glossary Search Go Español
Home Topics Activities Resources Episode Guide Active Learning
Art to Encourage Literacy

Dear Debi,
My son is 3-years-old and loves coloring. But when I try to get him to write something, he doesn’t like it. What’s a good way to get him ready to start reading and writing?
Juanna Espinel
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Children are most receptive to learning when they’re having fun
  • Provide a variety of art materials
  • Talk to your kids about what they’re creating
Expert Advice
Moises Roman
Moises Roman
UCLA Early Care & Education Department
A child expressing an interest in coloring is already showing a curiosity in writing. Children are most receptive to learning when they’re having fun. The open-ended nature of art lends itself well to children learning. Just because a child picks up a pencil, doesn’t mean he’ll immediately start writing symbols. He has to go through the developmental stages of writing. Those stages start with scribbling, then drawing, then writing.

Child Care Provider Comments
Nora Urrea
Nora Urrea
Mother of five
In my opinion, three years old is too young to start writing; they don’t have the manual development in their hands to hold a pencil well. Coloring is fine, but to make definite shapes is too early for them. You can help them develop manual skills with big chunky toys, or counting games like Hi Ho Cheerio where they pick up objects and place them in the right holes. These manipulative games help children to develop their hand muscles so they can hold a pencil correctly in order to write. Give them the confidence to write by making them feel that wherever they’re at in development is just fine; give a lot of praise.
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
If your child likes to color already, you should use that as a tool. You can help him get ready to read and write by using a letter or shape pattern when he’s drawing. You can make shapes and letters for him and guide his hand at first to trace it, and then let him do it on his own. Let him also draw pictures, even if they’re just squiggles. Those simple lines are the beginning stages of pre-writing skills. Eventually they’ll develop into letters and it will help him with the writing skills.
Verdis Ferraro
Verdis Ferraro
Child care provider for 23 years
If your child loves coloring, you should let her color a picture and ask her to tell you a story about what she colored. You can write down the words for her to accompany the pictures. Later, you can read it back to her and she’ll realize that the words go with the pictures. She’ll see that’s how books work – there’s language that goes with the pictures. One other thing we do that is fun is we create a drawing as a group with pictures and then we sing a song and the kids fill in the blanks in the song. As children sing the song, I draw the pictures. The song is called the “Achin’ Drum” with blank parts for the kids to fill in with different objects from a theme. So if we’re talking about vegetables, the kids will fill in the blanks with different vegetables and I’ll draw them, write the words and their names next to the words. It helps them to see print put to pictures.

A Silly Art Book Featured Activity:
A Silly Art Book
Art to Encourage Literacy Featured Video:
Art to Encourage Literacy
Topic: Play & Creativity
View Index
Learn More
View All Topics
Message Boards
Related Episodes
Importance of Art Activities
Poetry & Rhyme
Literacy Activities
Learning Through the Senses
Drawing & Literacy
Homework and Preschoolers, Plus Week in Review
Making Thinking Visible
The National Center For Family Literacy
1-877-FAMLIT-1 (or 1-877-326-5481)
© 2007 Community Television of Southern California. All rights reserved.