Friday, April 13, 2012

Ready to Read?

One of my most favorite things I learned in college (besides my excellent grammar), was about reading readiness signs in children. I took a course called "Early Literacy", as my degree was in Early Childhood, and just loved that course. I didn't love all the projects we had to do....but I did enjoy what I learned.

I did my student teaching in 1st grade and Pre-K. Pre-Kindergarten was awesome because we got to wear dockers and Keds in a day and age where everyone still wore heels and hose to teach in. Yep, that's the important stuff right there.

Anyway, at that age (4-5), one of the "tests" they gave the kids was exactly what I had learned about in college. It was called "Draw a Man." They gave the kiddos a piece of paper and a pencil or crayon and asked them to draw a man. (or person) Then they repeated that test at the end of the year. Was it an art test? Nope. It's a reading readiness assessment. I student taught in the spring, but got to go through and look at the beginning of year assessment pictures. What I learned in college certainly held true in that Pre-K classroom.

Basically the research shows that how much detail a child puts in their drawing of a person is an indicator of how ready they are to tackle the skill of reading. For example, if a child just has a big face with eyes, nose, and mouth? Not so ready. When they start adding details such as the correct number of fingers, eyebrows, etc....then they are ready. Also, the presence of a "baseline" is an indicator. That is when they draw a "floor" under their person instead of just drawing them floating on the page. want to go assess your children's drawings, don't you? Go ahead! It's fun!!

Yesterday, Little Bit drew a picture for me while we were running errands and it got me to thinking about this again. If you remember, we just completed "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" back in December just after her 8th birthday. She is reading now. And here is her picture from yesterday:

Yep. Research holds true. Because here is a picture she drew when she was four years old:

What a difference, huh? So see, I could have told you when she was four that reading instruction did NOT need to begin when she was five. If her drawing is an indicator of readiness...she wasn't! (We did work on phonics and reading instruction when she was 5, but not hard-core.) The above picture is from a book called "Wiggles" that she wrote. The word "Wiggles" was written from right to left and each Wiggle was drawn with the correct color of crayon. Oh how I loved her ball people.

But see? The man is floating on the page. And there is very little detail. They say children draw those ball people because the head/face is an important feature they notice about other people and when they look down, they see their legs. So those are the parts that get included first. You will often see "feet" or "shoes" be added and also details on the head, before other details begin to emerge. Oh I just love analyzing children's drawings over time!

Of course, it's just research and there are plenty of children who probably blow this theory right out of the water. But, it's really fun to watch over time as their drawings become more detailed and mature and their reading ability climbs with it.

Have fun looking back at your child's drawings now!


  1. hmmm, fascintating...
    My ds 7 who is just beginning to read is also just beginning to be interested in drawing pictures. He always draws a big head w/ arms sticking out of the ear area, lol. He hasn't even progressed to hair yet. ;^) We will just take that reading slow n steady. =)

  2. Very interesting stuff. I have never heard of this readiness method before, but I will remember it now. :) Thanks for sharing this with us. :)
    Dawn T.

  3. Thank you so much for this article! I really appreciate it! Here is how my experiment went after I tried it out:


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)