Reading and Writing in Young Children: Reader Response

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Last week we read Mo Willems’ book ‘That is not a good idea!’ My daughter loved it so much that she has been carting it around, reading the story to her little brother, and looking for details in the illustrations. Then this morning, on the way to her school, we saw a fox rush into the bushes.

I didn’t have a plan when I said, “Uh-oh! There goes a fox looking for food.”

“Oh no, Amma! What if he meets mother goose? He will think that he can eat her, but she will trick him! We have to warn the fox,” my daughter cried from the back.

“Yeah, warn him,” came the echo from the other car seat. And then I was entertained with their favorite refrain of the week,

“That is not a good idea, Fox. That is not a good idea!”

A and I have our ‘together time’ after the little one goes to bed. That’s the time we do activities where I can give her my undivided attention. That evening A wanted to make a poster warning the fox to be careful. She wanted to post it outside like the ‘Lost Dog’ flyers, but it was too cold. Thankfully we skipped it.

Before she started writing her warning, I asked A to draw a picture of the two characters from the book. She has developed the habit of describing her work as she draws. This kind of ‘thinking aloud’ as she draws helps her link the details in her picture to what she knows or has seen. If you look at the goose on the right, you’ll see she has glasses (like you, Amma). Her comments tell me how and why she draws the animals the way she did.

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“The fox has a long body. See my fox’s long body? That’s the tail. It is waving in the wind.”

Once she finished drawing A wanted to write down a warning for the fox (and all its friends). Her message (if you aren’t able to read it) is

Be careful Fox. Goose will trick you.

A is very proud of her ability to write. She is using invented spelling as her writing is phonetically correct. We have been working a lot on phonemic awareness.

A said the word out loud and identified just the first sound. That helped her start with the /b//e/ in Be and after that came the tricky part.

Which letter matches the first sound in careful? Is she old enough to understand the magic e in ‘careful’? A needed a little bit of help segmenting the sounds in the word (taking apart the sounds) but other than that, she wrote on her own. I let her write without correcting her spelling.

I was surprised that she already had some visual memory of some of the words from the book. Rereading the book several times helped her remember what the whole word looked like. Otherwise, how could she know that goose has two ‘o’s? When she was stumped by the word ‘trick’ she checked with me Is that /k/ a C or a K?” Towards the end, she wrote just the letter ‘u’ but then when she heard the /y/ in the initial place she quickly changed it to ‘yu’.

A has to work on her letter formation and sizes, but we were both delighted with her work. For me, the thrill was in watching her apply her learning and for her, it was her growing independence in writing.

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