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!
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.
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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