When my daughter started school a couple of years ago, one of the first things she was given was a list of ten words she was asked to learn to spell. Over the next few months more words were added until she had mastered one hundred different words.
Fast forward a few years to grade 2, and that list just keeps growing. Each time I practice spelling with her we use the same process: first I say the word out aloud, then I use it in a simple sentence, before she then has a go at writing it down.
As her vocabulary develops, I hope that this will also evolve into a lifelong love of language. The early signs are good – she loves to read, and she also loves to make up stories of her own, usually featuring puppies, fairies and unicorns.
Watching her learn also reminds me of how complex English can be, and how difficult it is to learn when there are so few rules that can be consistently relied on. The sponge-like nature of the English language – effortlessly absorbing words from different languages and cultures – means that sometimes you simply have to know how to spell a particular word rather than rely on any form of logic to guide you (unless perhaps you are a linguistic historian).
I’m also conscious of the fact that not every child has the advantages that my daughter does. She is lucky to be living in a home when reading is encouraged, where there are lots of different books, and she has someone who can listen to her practice reading every day.
This year, as with other years, Red Pony made a small donation to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. You can read more about the work they do on the ALNF website, but their primary purpose is to raise language, literacy and numeracy standards in Australia.
As it says on the ALNF website, ‘being able to read and write is the key to accessing education and employment, and to participating fully in society’. That seems to me to be the best gift you could give any child, and it is what I want most for my daughter.