Our daughter is four and about to start school. She is quite bright, we think, but is resolute in her rejection of learning – the three Rs are apparently some way off. One evening during the summer holidays, with wind and rain lashing her bedroom window and the gloom creeping up on us, we lay on the bed. I was about to start reading from one of her favourite books. Under the pile of thumbed and not so thumbed books was a plastic wallet containing some alphabet cards.
These are the ones which they can practice drawing their letters on and then wipe them clean to start all over again. On the other side are three more pictures, with corresponding words next to them and space to practice writing the letter.
I picked up the first card I came to and almost without thought, I held it up and asked ‘do you know what this word is?’, pointing at the big word. ‘No’. ’Well, what is this picture of?’ I asked. ‘A leaf’, she replied. ‘Good, so what is this word?’ ‘It’s leaf,’ she said. ‘And what letter does it start with?’ At this point I began making the usual phonic sounds of leaf and eventually she got it. ‘Excellent, we had mastered the letter L and word leaf.
At this point I had an idea. ‘I will make up a story using this word.’ My daughter was struck with the sheer imaginative force of my idea, not realising it had probably been done a million times before. So, off I went, on a faltering and tentative journey with the word leaf.
She sat up and picked one up, turning it over and choosing another picture, this time of a hen. After some encouragement, she managed the letter and the word and off I went again, picking up the story and taking it somewhere exciting.
By this time I was starting to get into my stride, I was taking my daughter on a journey where there were no pictures in books or on a screen, just in her mind. Pink chickens, evil step mothers, swirling snow storms, fantastic twists and turns, it was all there for her to picture in her mind. Her face was alive with excitement at each new character or turn of events and when we came to an end, it was clear we’d be doing it again.
I’m not a super mum, always juggling work whilst looking after the children, trying to give them both as much quality time as possible. I do know though that for those moments whilst creating our own magical world of stories, I am the most exciting, imaginative and fulfilled mother in the world.