More Than a Picture: How Drawing Develops Young Writers

Picture writing unlocks the imagination, builds confidence, and develops foundational early literacy skills.

By Bekki Lindner
Feb 02, 2014



More Than a Picture: How Drawing Develops Young Writers

Feb 02, 2014

You've likely heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For a developing writer, truer words were never spoken.

Children have an innate sense of creativity. My own children never cease to amaze me with their new ideas and fresh perspectives. Drawing pictures allows children to unleash their imagination on paper.

Drawing a picture provides a pre-writer the opportunity to plan, brainstorm, and develop new ideas. When a child draws a picture, he/she is telling a story. A writer is born the first time your child puts crayon to paper.

"Picture writing" is an important first step in the writing process. When pre-writers use picture writing, they are expressing ideas through illustrations. As their literacy skills develop over time, the picture will serve as a plan for their writing. A picture sparks ideas, provides details, and serves as a framework for a piece of writing.

Getting started with picture-writing is easy! Pull out some paper and crayons and let your pre-writers unleash their creativity.

1. Draw a picture.
Accept what your child offers. The picture is a writing tool -- not an entry into an art contest.

2. Talk about your picture.
A story begins to unfold as your child talks about his picture. If necessary, ask questions or provide simple prompts to keep a hesitant pre-writer moving forward.

3. "Write" about a picture.
Have your children write to the full extent of their abilities. Some examples of pre-writing include scribbling, random strings of letters, and copied text. Trust that the scribbles and messy lines of "writing" are a display of learning and progress! Your children WILL become writers. It won't happen overnight, but with daily continued practice, their pre-writing will transform before your eyes.

It is foundational for pre-writers to learn to make their words match their pictures. They must understand that pictures represent ideas, and that ideas can be turned into words on the page. When necessary, steer your children's stories back towards what is drawn.

For example, if your children have drawn a beach scene, their writing shouldn't be about Sunday morning pancakes.

4. "Read" what is written.
After your kids have "written" about their pictures, ask them to read their words. Write their words underneath their form of writing. This step gives validity to their writing attempt while providing a correct writing model.

5. Celebrate!
Celebrate your children's writing. Pull out a picture book, and show them how the author's story matches the pictures -- just like their stories! Emphasize that they are writers! Have your kids share their picture-writing with a family member or friend.

In about ten minutes, without any special materials or fanfare, your children can become writers! Picture writing unlocks the imagination, builds confidence, and develops foundational early literacy skills.

Children learn:
1. I am a storyteller.  

2. Pictures represent words and ideas.

3. Pictures help me write.

4. I am a writer!

Helping your child understand that illustrations represent ideas and that ideas can be represented in print is a huge concept in early writing AND early reading! Writing and reading are closely intertwined. So pick up those crayons, pull out some paper, and get your child drawing and writing today. The five to ten minutes you invest will make a world of difference, and will set your child on the path to writing.

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