A Funny Thing Happens on the Way to Literacy

I have a new blog follower: my daughter, age seven. One day we were climbing in the maple tree at the side of our house, laughing and taking pictures through the leaves, when she said: “Mom, think you should write about this on your island letters?”

At first I misunderstood.

“You think we should write letters?”

“No, on the computer–you know, your island desert letters. You should write about climbing trees and put it on the computer with pictures of trees.”

Girl’s got good instincts.

A few days later she sat at my computer playing a math game.

“Mom! I didn’t know you don’t like bunnies!” I hadn’t noticed the math game had gone silent.


“You wrote it here on Desert Island Letters. But bunnies are awesome.”

Busted. I forgot she could read. Think fast, lady.

“Well, bunnies are super cute, but I don’t like them eating the whole garden,” I justified to my youngest reader. “Your daddy would be so sad if rabbits destroyed his plants.” (She has a soft spot for Daddy. Hating bunnies on his behalf seemed like a good angle.)

This all happened so suddenly, her reading and writing and doing math. Kindergarten was thrilling, moving from sight words to sounding out the letters to unlocking the mysteries of books. First Grade brought daily writing exercises–lots of stories and essays, quite entertaining.

Her favorite subject is cats, judging by the high volume of cat essays. Her favorite introductory sentence goes like this: “I’m gonna tell you about . . .” Simple. Straightforward. Almost always cat related.

It’s gratifying to watch literacy swing the gates of the world wide open. As a writer and avid reader, I’m thrilled to see my daughter grab hold of the power of language.

Yesterday she brought home a year-end review of first grade with blanks filled in with her favorite parts–favorite lunch, teacher, friends, and so on. One word fills the blank space following: “This year my favorite subject was . . .”


She’s unaware how much this makes my heart glow, her affinity for writing. We can work on the spelling later, but for now she may be onto something.

Maybe writing is a way of righting, of trying to make thoughts right, of trying to make things right. Writing is a mysterious process of reconciling inner thoughts to the greater world of ideas and, if you’re lucky, to truth. By capturing ideas in words, we can see thoughts made visible, slowly and surely righting our course.

We can admit to disliking rabbits, via writing, and agree to disagree.

That’s why righting is important–and writing is alright.