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Learning the A, B, C’s of Reading and Writing

May 19, 2014

I’m convinced that one of the hardest tasks humans have to master is learning how to read and write. As an adult – especially one who writes for a living – I forgot how difficult it is to learn the right words and figure out how to form a complete sentence. I don’t even recall how I learned to read and write, only that I acquired these skills in elementary school.

Watching Sophie learn to read and write this year has been one of the most amazing transformations I’ve had the privilege to witness as a parent. And I am completely in awe of the teachers who are tasked with making sure their young subjects actually learn to master these skills.

When Sophie started kindergarten only eight short months ago, she could write her name and recognized the alphabet. But reading was done by me. And her writing consisted of words resulting from, “Mom, can you spell …?”

I didn’t know how to teach a kid to read or write (and quite honestly, I don’t think Sophie would have wanted to learn from me either). So when she went to kindergarten, I watched as her teacher worked magic over the course of a school year. On the advice of her teacher, I soon found myself telling Sophie, “Sound it out” when she asked for help writing a word. She was NOT happy with that response. But soon she was off and writing at school and at home.

The first evidence of Sophie’s learning to write came in October when she showed me her first full writing assignment. She wrote, “I was at Sea World with my mom.” It may not seem like much. But before this, Sophie did not understand how to sound out words.


In December, the class hosted a Publishing Party, an event where the kids presented their latest writing projects in front of the class for the parents and classmates. Sophie presented a thoughtful little “pattern book” with illustrations about ice cream. It was amazing to see sentences becoming longer and words becoming clearer. And the kids were so brave presenting their books on the document camera and speaking into a microphone in front of an audience!

publishing party collage

March’s Publishing Party featured non-fiction “books,” Sophie wrote about meerkats. For this assignment, kids did research and used an “idea web” to organize their thoughts. Research?! I didn’t learn to organize my thoughts and research this way until middle school! They presented their work in a book with a table of contents and diagrams.


meerkat collage

The last publishing party focused on opinion writing. The kids took turns in front of the class reading their opinion books. Again, the kids organized their opinions in a chart and then wrote out their ideas. Sophie’s book was entitled, “My Mommy.” I couldn’t have been more proud watching her read her own work and seeing her writing on the pages. I can’t wait to see what she presents for the final party where the kids will present their “how to” books next month.



It’s been an incredible journey, watching Sophie learn how to turn letters into words; and thoughts into sentences. She no longer asks me to spell out words for her. I am overwhelmed with joy when I see her sitting on the couch reading a book out loud, or sounding out signs as we drive in the car. These are the moments that make me proud, emotional, and of course, excited to see what she’ll do next.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2014 3:58 am

    Truly these early teachers are heroes. I remember our three learning to read- that magic moment when they break the code is incredible. For our eldest son, it seemed that was all he needed– he couldn’t stop reading and writing and still does at 29! Loved the stories she wrote and the progression. Mazel Tov!

  2. May 19, 2014 6:22 am

    How sweet, Leah! It is a marvel that we can learn to read, write, and spell that young. This must be an incredible amount of fun for you to witness. When I think about the founding of our country when so many couldn’t read and that, today, we take it for granted, it really is something to behold. I can’t imagine not having the written word in my life!

  3. Amber Highburger permalink
    May 19, 2014 9:13 am

    What a wonderful article today. I enjoyed reading it. I completely understand how you feel. Last year, I tried to teach Isaac how to read and he just didn’t have an interest. This year, he started to get the hang of it and now he is so proud of himself that he can read Dr. Seuss books on his own. It was a challenge for me because Jacob started reading on his own, by sight, at the age of 3. Jacob did not learn phonetically. So he does not sound letters out. I don’t understand it, but he just knows words.
    Because I have been diligently working with Jacob on writing this year, Isaac took an interest too. Isaac loves to write “funny” stories, characters doing silly things. Its so cute to see how he spells words and his ideas about things.
    Thanks for the read this morning. I love seeing Sophie’s smile, she can lighten up a room with it!

  4. Apolonio Chavez permalink
    May 19, 2014 4:54 pm

    Very cool, Leah! Can’t wait to see more!

  5. Mom permalink
    May 19, 2014 11:14 pm

    Sophie, you are amazing and your Grandma is SO proud of you! Leah you nurtured, encouraged and fostered that incredible journey of Sophie’s learning to read and write and as a veteran kindergarten teacher, you both have done me proud 🙂 I love you both very much.

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