The whole belief can be compared to the observation of child`s speech. It goes from baby talk to more articulate speech. The child isn`t born speaking! Reading and writing are technical and mechanical skills which are more naturally and appropriately learned at a later stage of the child`s development. The value lies in the child getting a good foundation, where all of his cognitive and creative capacities are allowed to develop before being pushed to "stay within the lines". An interesting but little known fact is also that Steiner said that cursive writing should precede printing words..! (All about the forms again.) But generally, in American schools, cursive writing is not taught until the third grade because of the American view of learning to read. So, in effect, to keep up with the American standards of reading - this very important part of learning has been tossed aside due to pressures from outside sources! The current philosophies of the modern and mechanistic world are aimed at seeing early results. As a result they have devised one-sided, left brained achievement tests that have become the indicator of success or failure in education. These tests, as we all know, are useless. Yet they are a representation of the current system in place.
Most Waldorf students learn to read or write without ANY pressure or anxiety. Most do not need to be "taught" how to read, but learn on their own, naturally and joyfully. The Waldorf school environment is permeated by language and literature and all subjects are presented first through the spoken word. As a result, Waldorf students develop a deep appreciation for language in all of its forms, and they become highly skilled in its many applications.
Dotted letters are very effective for handwriting practice too. You can buy handwriting practice books but they won`t be personalized for your child so you may want to consider getting a dotted font for your computer. Make sure you get the same style as your child is using at school to avoid making handwriting more complicated for them! It`s easy to install a font on your computer and then you will be able to create name cards or type out a little story your child tells you. Once printed out the child can trace over the dotted letters. Probably the most important point is to supervise children closely whenever they are writing. That way parents and teachers can ensure that the child has a good tripod pencil grip for control. Supervision should also ensure that children start each letter in the right place and move the pencil in the right direction. Getting the letter formation correct is much more important than neatness in the early stages. If children get into the habit of starting a letter in the wrong place or moving in the wrong direction, for example drawing the letter o in a clockwise direction instead of anti-clockwise, these habits will easily become ingrained and very hard to correct later.