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Writing her first symphonies

By July 8, 2010Writing

First, she wrote her name. Now, she’s writing symphonies. Okay, not really…but sorta.

It’s nearly impossible not to write about watching my 4-year-old discover writing. Because she’s my baby and because writing is my soul sister. To see the two of them combined is…well…beyond the beyond.

Here’s what she’s up to.

She’s mastered the letters. She can identify them in books, on t-shirts, on my computer—you name it, she’s calling them out like muggers in a precinct line-up. And, she can write them. Not just her five, S-O-P-H-I-E, but all 26. Which is where the composing comes in.

She spends hours (in 4-year-old years, which is like 20 minutes in grown-up years) arranging letters into magnificent combinations. With her pen and paper, with the alphabet magnets and the smooth surface of our fridge, she creates wordy masterpieces. Sometimes they are short: P-O-H-P. Sometimes they are long: S-O-P-H-I-E-J-A-C-K-D-P-E-X-I-Q-W-N. Sometimes they make sense: P-O-D.  Sometimes they don’t: G-H-N-O-O-F.

But they always end the same—with the question: “What does this say?”

We sound them out for her, of course, because the point is to help her learn phonics. But I long for her to tell us what they say, you know? What it means in her mind when she takes the notes she’s been given and arranges them just so. In that way that feels like the sweetest sort of mastery…and connection…and song.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Van says:

    As a kid-less one I admire your patience through these early years of learning. You must be bursting at the seams breathlessly waiting for the first “real” sentence she will scribe.

  • Oh, this is SO my house right now! Noah began reading fluently just before he turned four – don’t ask me how that happened – and while he will not sit and write letters unless paid in large quantities of chocolate, he loves to move the letter magnets around and ask that same sweet question – “What does this say?” When I sound out the mess of sounds he’s mixed together, we both laugh hysterically. In so many ways this child is me and his love of words is just one more confirmation. I love it.

  • This is so sweet. My daughter is now 6 1/2 and just lost her first tooth, but I remember her doing that exact same exercise when she was your daughter’s age. I still have pages of carefully lettered gobbledy-gook and remember patiently trying to sound it out for her while I looked for any serendipitous “words.”

    Really lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I love hearing from all of you about this…now if we can just help them make that leap (and keep it going) from stringing letters together to make music to stringing words together to do the same…

  • Absolutely, Julie! As my little girl grows into a bigger girl, I think it’ll be all about keeping the writing process fun and making sure she knows it’s a place where she can be in control by writing the story. I’m pretty sure that’ll win her over.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Oh Jamie – if that wasn’t just the reminder that I needed to hear right now! Thank you.

  • tawnya says:

    My son will be 4 in a couple of weeks. We are FIRMLY in this stage too. “What does that spell?” is uttered 26 million times a day here. And I get impatient with him until I remember that isn’t right. I need to help him foster the love of words and stories and the “what does this spell”s…

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