The Letter Box

Amie and her letter Box (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

  • Letters

A couple of months ago, Amie started showing interest in letters. It was rather unavoidable, as we have wooden alphabet puzzles and alphabet fridge magnets. And she sees us reading, of course, and writing on paper (Mama) and on the computer (Baba and Mama).

She now also pretends to read her books,  some of which she knows by heart. It freaks out visitors, because she really seems to be reading fluently! She can recognize her written name and the A, B, C, K, M, O, P, S (and perhaps X).

  • The things and the name/drawing/picture of it

She also pretends to write. On those occasions it sometimes seems that she hasn’t quite grasped the difference between the name of a thing and the thing. She will say:

– “This is a dinosaur!” and will make big movements, while very slowly spelling out the word – “di-no-sau-ah!” (with a flourish at the end). I ask her:

– “Did you draw a drawing of a dinosaur or write the word ‘dinosaur’?” (we have always taken care to make those distinctions between pictures,  drawings, or name(s) of something, and the something). She answers:

– “It’s a drawing of a dinosaur!” (tone: are you stupid or what?)

  • The Letter Box Game

In any case, a fun game I invented is the Letter Box. It’s your average small cardboard box that has an easy-to-open flap. On it I stuck two cd-sleeves.

  1. Every morning, Amie chooses one letter from a cheapo stack of flashcards. The upper and lower case cards go into the cd-sleeves on top. In the picture above we’re working on M, one of her favorite letters.
  2. Throughout the day we collect things that start with that letter and put them inside the box. We cut out pictures of monkeys, for instance, put in (small) books whose titles start with the letter (Maisy), and small objects (money).
  3. In the evening, we up-end the box and review its contents. I hope it will become part of our routine.
  • Homeschooling Reading

That doesn’t mean we’re learning how to read, let alone actually reading. I have been doing some research on all the elements that need to come together and all the effort that needs to be expended for reading to happen… and I must admit, I am intimidated!

I don’t want to leave reading up to school, though. First of all, because  that kind of school is still very far off, and I think Amie might be interested before then. I also want her to learn reading in her own setting, that is, at home, as part of play, and out of her own volition.

Teaching has always been a large part of our parenting – of anyone’s parenting, for sure, but DH and I are very conscious of our roles as teachers. And Amie is a curious girl. She can now count to ten, for instance, not just say the words, but count 10 things: we taught her that and she eagerly aborbed it.

I wonder what kind of shape our teaching her / her learning how to read:

  • it will be a homeschooling project, that is clear (even though DH doesn’t like the idea of full-time homeschooling, as someone who grew up in the extremly competitive Indian school system, he is shocked at how late kids in the States learn to read or count, etc. At age 4 he could already spell ‘handkerchief’ – a word I just had to spellcheck to see if I got it right!)
  • but will it be more of an unschooling effort?
  • or will I scramble to read the latest research and to offer her many experimental inroads?

One thing is for certain, we can’t wait for our daughter to experience the joy of reading, but we’ll take it one step at a time, letting her lead the dance.

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