Monday, March 8, 2010

Reverse, Backward, and Upside Down: When to Worry When About Your Child's Writing

Some parents may worry when their preschoolers begin to reverse letters, write words from right to left, or confuse letters like b, d, and p in their writing. Even preschoolers who previously "got it right" might begin to reverse letters and words. But not to worry! This is a normal stage in learning to write. Between the ages of three and seven, it is quite common for children to write some or all of their letters and words backwards. Sometimes called mirror writing, research shows that this phenomenon is not only normal, but is likely the result of normal brain development.
As a former preschool and kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that such writing does not worry me and in fact it lets me know that often children have moved on to the next stage in their literacy development. Often, children "get it right" in the beginning because they have learned to write by copying something that a grown-up has written for them. When children start to write on their own without an example, they will make more errors. They are using their brains to figure things out and that is a good thing! When you watch a preschooler write, you can often see a level of concentration that says, "My brain is working OVERTIME over here!"

What should parents of preschoolers do?

  1. Avoid making a big deal and correcting your child. Over corrections may discourage your child from future attempts at writing.
  2. Model writing for your child. For example, when he or she asks you to write their name or a sentence on their artwork, start in the upper left corner so children see the direction of print.
  3. Sometimes (but not always) point to the words books that you are reading so children learn that text is read from left to write and from top to bottom
  4. Relax and don't worry! This is an awesome stage in your child's development and if they are taking an interest in writing, NURTURE it rather than over-analyzing it!

What if my child is in Kindergarten and is still writing backwards?

The same rules apply. Up until age seven or eight, children may continue to display mirror writing. Most of the time, children will learn the correct way with lots of practice that they are likely to get when they enter elementary school. If you are still concerned, speak to your child's teacher and your child's pediatrician.

Two Great Resources for Parents and Teachers

Recommended Reading for Parents and Teachers


Supporting Research

Cornell, J.M. (1985). Spontaneous mirror writing in children. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 39(1), 174-179.

Cubelli, R. (2009). Mirror writing in preschool - A pilot study. Cognitive Processing, 10 (2), 101-104.


  1. Hi there,

    The Reading Checkup List link above doesn't work. Can you fix the link. I am interested! :)

  2. Hi Erin,
    I've checked the link and AAP must have moved the aricle. I'll try to see if I can find it elsewhere on the web. So far, none of the links work. Sorry!! In the meantime, here is another great link:

  3. It does in the age between 3 to 7 but parents must have to concentrate on their kids learning activities and have to draw attention on right writing.

  4. thanks for the insights - really helpful and sets ones worries ay bay!

  5. -here is another great article on the site..

  6. Thank you so much! My 3 year old son write letters upside down. I was worried thinking this wasn't normal but now I understand.



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