Let Them Scribble: How Scribbling Promotes Literacy Development

Scribbling, Literacy

“Mommy, mommy, mommy, look, look, it’s Dumbo!” she says while proudly showing me her latest masterpiece of colorful scribbles.

Without waiting for my response she exclaims, “See the O?” She repeats “O, O, O” like a teacher instructing a class.

It is a moment like this when I want to stop folding the laundry and record this milestone. As a speech language pathologist, I’m continually fascinated by speech, language and literacy development. To see it emerge before your eyes is astounding. Yet, instead of stopping my folding, I store it away in my brain as something to remember to record in my Kerri notebook after she goes to bed.

At the time my daughter was almost 2 and a half years old. She was thinking like a literate person because she thought she could write letters and words. Kerri has been very fortunate to live in a language rich environment so her thinking like a literate person, although fascinating, is not too surprising. Unfortunately, many children do not have such an opportunity.

By encouraging scribbling and assigning meaning to those dots, markings, and imperfect circles, we help grow our children into literate beings.

Rather than correct your child’s scribbles (“Actually, that’s not the letter O…”) allow him or her to experiment and take a guess. This experimentation promotes confidence and is an essential step in literacy development.

Let your child think that his or her scribbles tell a story and embrace it because time is precious and passes too quickly.

Currently, at 4 and a half years old Kerri still loves to write, draw, and paint. But now, she is motivated to spell words. Just the other day, in the car while writing on her travel white board she asked, “Mom, how do you spell poop?”

For more information, please read this insightful PDF.


Kimberly Scanlon, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist, an author and a mother. As the owner of Scanlon Speech Therapy, LLC, a unique boutique practice in Bergen County, Kimberly embraces individuality and treats the whole person. Her goal is to spread compassion, hope, and some speech, language and literacy tips one moment, one person at a time. Her first book, My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development and her second book, Learning to Read is a Ball are available for purchase online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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