Is it normal for children to write backwards?


What is essential to a man apart from food, clothing, and shelter? Communication, right? As man being a social man, needs communication for the give and take of information. Early man used to communicate via hand and face gestures. The development of intelligence gave birth to different types of sounds and then speech.

Cave or paper drawings replaced the speech. When these were found inadequate, alphabets were devised - this transformed human culture to a great extent. However, the early efforts of writing were made only about 5,000 years ago. This posed a puzzle for the biology of reading as 5,000 years are not long enough for a brain to evolve for the capacity of reading.

Biology of Reading:

Biological machinery of reading is set from different domains of vision. Vision is subjected to rotation invariants of any object. We see the same object when it is rotated in any angle. However, there is an exception, the letters or alphabets. When the letters are rotated, we do not see only one letter but different combinations. For example, consider the letter ‘d.’ When ‘d’ is rotated, we get ‘b.’ When further rotated, we get ‘q’ and ‘p’. This happens because letters are not rotation invariants. We have chosen the visual symbols as per our culture. They do not carry properties that the visual system outside of reading possess. This clearly explains why children usually write as per the mirror image of the said word.

Why children write letters backwards?

Although strange, this is found to be an extraordinary habit. Adults cannot follow suit and write mirror image of letters as children, even if they decide. This is done easily by children because they use the same visual system to see the letter that we adults use to visualize other objects. They perceive an image and the mirror rotation of that image as same. This is how vision always works. So to learn to write effectively, children need to unlearn the property that the reflection of an object corresponds to the same object.

Next time when parents think that their child is not growing or is not normal after observing the child writing backwards, take a pause, breathe, and relax. You need not worry as it is perfectly normal for a child to pick this habit. It was regular in the evolution of human vision. You just have to make them unlearn this by the process of learning.
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