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Q: My five-year-old will be starting kindergarten in a few weeks. He has been in preschool at a local YMCA for almost a year now. He does very well with recognizing and writing his numbers, but he consistently writes his name backwards. Instead of writing "Zachary," he writes "yrahcaZ." He does start with the "Z" but on the wrong side of the page. How do you suggest I try to make him understand which direction to write? Also, he is ambidextrous, but seems to like to write with his left hand, and I am right-handed. I know lefties have to hold the pencil differently so how can I help teach him the correct way when I work with him at home?
A: Don't ruin the last few weeks you have together trying to teach your son how to write his name correctly. It might make him anxious about starting kindergarten.
Before school starts or within the first few days, you need to talk to the teacher so that he or she will know that your child is left-handed. This is very important information for the teacher because it will determine where your child is seated at a table. If the teacher seats him on the corner, he will not knock elbows with any right-handed children. Also, it will alert the teacher that your son will need special handwriting instruction.
Left-handed children are now taught to write in a style similar to their right-handed classmates. This is accomplished by having them slant their papers to the right instead of the left. Then they are able to write with their hand straight and below the line instead of in a "hooked" position. Be sure to reinforce this paper position whenever your child is writing at home. One of the best ways to help your child learn how to hold a pencil is to have an older child or adult who is also left-handed teach him how to do this.
Your son lives in a right-handed world and is going to need help from you and some special equipment, like left-handed scissors, to adjust. Help him learn to be proud of his uniqueness.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.