Kiddo Update: On Reading and Writing

I’ve been a teacher for 10 years, and since my very first year I’ve been interested in literacy. I’m fascinated by the way people learn how to read, and especially how older children and young adults develop the knowledge and tools to access consistently more advanced texts. So, it should come as no surprise that I’m throughly enjoying watching LP, my five-year-old develop the beginnings of reading and writing skills.

LP has been very into writing letters and words since last fall. Much of this development on letters started in pre-school, especially with writing his name. Now he wants to write or draw almost every day, and he has a note pad he filled with words like “bread,” “dinner,” “school,” “Grandpa,” etc. One of my favorite moments was when he came home from pre-school one day, ran into the living room, pulled out his special word-pad, and asked me “How do you spell ‘Deena Marshall?'” It took me a while to figure out what he was asking. I mean, here was note paper filled with nouns like “blocks” and “carrot,” so what the heck was a “Deena Marshall?” It took a minute, but I finally figured out it was a name he had heard on NPR in the car. So, I spelled it for him the best I could figure. My apologies to Deena if I got it wrong.

What was so fascinating about this moment to me was LP’s awareness of

Some of LP's artwork to go with his writing!
Some of LP’s artwork to go with his writing!

the language around him. It reminds me of when he was 2 and in his “What is that? What is that?” phase as he tried to discern the special name for every object in the house. Except now he is aware that all the words he hears spoken around him have a special code that can be read by anyone, created using only a pencil and paper.

About 4 months ago I was reading Rocket’s Mighty Words to LP. In the book Rocket the dog learns to read, and the book is filled with words and corresponding pictures. At the time I was trying to help LP figure out phonemes, such as the “b” sound, the “t” sound, the “sh” sound, etc. He enjoyed it for a little while, but then pretty quickly just wanted me to read off what all the things in the book were. I pushed a little, and then relented. I don’t want to rush his reading. As an educator myself, I don’t see any major benefit to children “reading early.” As long as my kids are able to decode and have a few sight words by the end of first grade (which is currently considered “late” according to the Common Core) I will be happy. But I was excited about sharing my love for the written word, and that sense of wonder and empowerment it brings with my son. So we sounded out Rocket’s words for a while, and then I let it go.

Fast forward to now and he’s asking me about Deena Marshall and spelling “Grandma” and “Grandpa” almost entirely with me simply breaking down the phonemes for him (such as making a “guh” sound instead of just telling him the word starts with a “G”). And the part I’m most thrilled about? It’s not the progress he is making. It’s not the number of letters he knows. It’s the way he gets excited by figuring out the puzzle of words. It’s the pride he show when he shares his writing and people read it and understand it. It’s the way he is loving learning.

IP has some kitty time!
IP has some kitty time!

Don’t worry; I didn’t forget about our little IP! Our little two-year old has also been quite intellectually busy. Her new favorite bedtime story is Lyle the Crocodile Walks the Dogs. It is a counting book where you count all the dogs Lyle walks on each page. As with all things IP does this in her own way. According to her, the book is called “Lyle the Alligator” so that is how we read it. Additionally, IP is always the one who gets to say the last line “Good Job Lyle.” But she certainly enjoys counting all the dogs, all the way up to 10, on many, many pages, and as loudly as possible. That’s our little girl!

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