For decades, research on children's literacy has been dominated by questions of how children learn to read. Especially among Anglophone scholars, cognitive and psycholinguistic research on reading has been the only approach to studying written language education. Echoing this, debates on methods of teaching children to read have long dominated the educational scene. This book presents an alternative view. In recent years, writing has emerged as a central aspect of becoming literate. Research in cognitive psychology has shown that writing is a highly complex activity involving a degree of planning unknown in everyday conversational uses of language. At the same time, developmental studies have revealed that when young children are asked to "write," they show a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of the representational constraints of alphabetic writing systems. They show this understanding long before they can read conventional writing on their own.
The rich structure of meanings involved in the word text provided the glue that brought together a group of scholars from several disciplines in an international workshop held in Rome. Reflecting the state of the field at the time, the majority of the workshop participants were scholars working in languages other than English, especially the romance languages. Their work mirrors a linguistic and psychological research tradition that Anglophone scholars knew little of until recently. This volume provides English-language readers with updated versions of the papers presented at the meeting. The topics discussed at the workshop are represented in the chapters as follows:
* the relationship between acquisition of language and familiarity with written texts;
* the reciprocal "permeability" between spoken and written language;
* the initial phases of text construction by children; and
* the educational conditions that facilitate written language acquisition and writing practice.