A key question I put to parents is: how many writing systems does your child come into regular contact with? We think of the Roman alphabet, of Arabic, Chinese and so on, but one mother asked: does music count? It does! Many of the children I have researched have music classes and even if they don’t, they are frequently immersed in a world filled with music. Representations of music, consequently, may appear in their exploration and appropriation of semiotic systems from a very early age:
The first three texts were written by the same child, aged 5yrs.
The first two demonstrate her awareness of musical layout at an age where in many countries, children are first being taught to write their name. The third text represents the lyrics. Here, we note the predominance of letters which appear in her name, but also her familiarity with other letters. We note also the use of capitals.
The first two texts/songs were written on the same day. The third text one week later.
The fourth and final text, written by the same child at the age of 11, is a song she composed for her mother. Elton John, eat your heart out.
Contrary to what is commonly assumed, when children write, they do not spend all their time writing stories, but compose a wide range of texts which are socially purposeful: games, recipes, letters to friends/family, complaints, lists, menus, bills, songs, spells, reminders, instructions, etc. In short, one function of children’s writing is as a socially empowering tool; a tool that addresses an audience, communicates a sincere message and anticipates (inter)action which extends beyond the mere reading of the text itself. Children’s writing may of course have several functions. I’ll be looking at several of these in this blog.