Emily and Phoebe

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Kyria E, Phoebe's teacher this year, concentrates more on general education than on reading and writing. This is something we're perfectly happy about. First, it's quite a relief that Phoebe doesn't have to plough through the dull worksheets that Emily was being given at her age. And second, she has developed a genuine thirst for knowledge and keeps coming out with new facts and information she's learnt from Kyria E. (Such as: letterbox is a compound noun; the earth is blue because it has more water than land; Muslims worship in a mosque, not a church; water evaporates from the sea and then condenses to form clouds; a silkworm eats leaves and then silk comes out of its bum.)

It seems, however, that some of the children in her class must have been getting some extra help in literacy, because a few of her friends are already able to read short words. A few weeks ago, Phoebe told me, the class was looking at pictures of different trees with their names written underneath. "My friends knowed some of the words but I didn't knowed any of them, Daddy," she told me sadly. "I was waiting for my friends to say the words and then I was saying them too but I wasn't really reading, Daddy, I was just pretending." She gave a little sigh. "I was just being like a parrot, Daddy."

Phoebe is very proud, and knows that dissembling to preserve her dignity is beneath her, so ever since, she has been studiously copying words from books and practising how to write letters, bringing me the results of her labours carefully copied out on to little scraps of paper. And sure enough she has started being able to read simple words, which she is very happy about.

But more importantly, she has become aware that writing is more than just copying. She has begun to recognise that it is a means of communication. She may even have the first inkling that writing, even more than speech, is a means of recording one's inner life, one's profoundest and most personal thoughts.

And so it was that yesterday, Phoebe came to me with a piece of paper on which she had written not a word copied from a book, but a word which she had thought of all by herself and copied from inside her own head. "I thought of this word, Daddy, and then I thought of the first letter of this word and then I thought of the first sound [she means syllable] and then I thought of the second sound [syllable] and then I writed it down. Did I writed it well, Daddy?" I looked at the piece of paper she was holding out to me. She had indeed writed it well. For there, in confident block capitals, was Phoebe's first written word, her first creative act, a first glimpse into the deeper recesses of her mind.




Anonymous deviousdiva said...

Of course you know that means she's utterly brilliant. I wish my first written word had been HADES. Mine was probably the usual boring CAT or DOG.

I wish Phoebe many more years of that love of words...

12:08 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Well yes, of course, if this is evidence of brilliance then I'm very happy. I just hope it doesn't turn out to be the evil genius variety. (I'm thinking Brain, of "Pinky & the" fame!)

6:27 PM  

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