Creatively Encouraging Reading and Writing.

Reading Writing Practice

Considering the fact that she was bred from an Accountant and an Engineer, it’s no surprise that Ali prefers math over reading and writing. Although we’ve made some headway in this area, she still just doesn’t enjoy it, and tends to rebuff all of my efforts in her literary education.

This creates Dread and Drudgery for All.

So, to overcome D & D, I’ve had to come up with some covert strategies.

1. Putting the White Crayon to use.

Ali is annoyed by the existence of the white crayon. It won’t show up when she colors with it, so therefore it serves no purpose. If it were up to her, white crayons would be banished from the face of the earth.

So I decided to change her opinions by using them to create one of her favorite things: a mystery.

I wrote her a note with a white crayon, then told her to paint the sheet of paper, promising that there would be a secret message awaiting her.

She was a little skeptical at first, seeing as the Evil Crayon of White was involved.


But she was intrigued (and a little apologetic to the poor disdained crayon) as a message began showing up…


She read the message gleefully, completely unaware that I was tricking her into reading practice.


Then she asked for another, and another.


After a while, she caught onto my evil trickery, so then insisted that she do the note-writing. If you insist…

2. Secret Decoding Sheets.

I recycled this trick from two years ago. At the time, I used it to covertly encourage her to practice letter writing. It works just as well to get her to practice reading.

She watches excitedly as I create the legend, pointing out what shapes I’ve left out in her usual OCD fashion.


I create the secret message, hand her a marker, and she goes to work.


She’s also created her own haphazardly spelled secret message or two, but usually gets distracted before she finishes it, thereby making it extremely secret.

3. Easel School

My Dad made Ali a fabulously crafted easel for Christmas, causing Melissa & Doug to cringe with shame. Ali loves her easel, and begs me for “easel school” assignments.

At first, we did spelling practice, and I would simply call out words for her to spell. But I also like to give her the opportunity to “freeform” spell, sounding out words for herself, whether right or wrong. So I started giving her phrases and poems to write while I was purposefully out of the room and unavailable for spelling consultation.

I then had a rare moment of brilliance, and had her practice writing her Cubbies Bible verses – good for writing practice and for working on memorization.


“Love each other as I hev loved you”
“I am with you oways”
“We ott to love wun unother”

I LOVED it. So much so that I immediately started pondering how we could frame it or mod podge it to canvas or something.

She enjoyed writing her bible verses, so we came up with a plan: what better way to thank Gramamma, who is also her Cubbies leader, than by giving her this as a gift?

Ali worked on a new copy for a week, writing out every verse that she’s learned this year.

IMG_2403 (2)

Of course she didn’t come up with all of the verses on her own – I would read a verse to her and let her freeform spell it.


We finally finished, and were both quite excited about her masterpiece.


We got a frame from Michael’s (sadly without encountering Michael’s Lady),


and then wrapped and stickered it.


(Ali doesn’t give un-bedazzled gifts.)

Clearly, I got some serious Daughter of the Year votes for that gift, and Ali was unassumingly schooled and bibled – my evil scheming played out perfectly.

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  1. I have used both the invisible message and the coded messages with my boys too! I feel all patted on the back :) Thanks!! Great job finding ways to be tricksy! I looooove that you gave that to your mom. I know she adored it so much. Kudos, sweet friend!

  2. Those are great ideas! Though I have a feeling that I will have to be tricking Aria into doing math, if she’s anything like her parents. Maybe you can have her write thank you notes for the troops to get more practice in. Someone (Telling Dad maybe?) was recently talking about making cards for the troops for Valentine’s Day through some organization. Apparently the troops love it, and it gives them a real pick-me-up.

  3. Love these ideas! Such a sweet thing to frame and gift too, sure to become a cherished memento. I’ll admit it though – I am sure disappointed you don’t have any Michael’s lady ‘words of wisdom’ this time.

  4. Lindsay M says:

    Great stuff! When my girl was two she came and told me that the white crayon “needed batteries” because it didn’t show up!

  5. Using each of these ideas with my reluctant reader/speller/writer!! Thanks!

  6. You’ve been pinned :)

  7. Eleanorjane says:

    What awesome ideas! Great work, there…

    My sister in law has dyslexia and didn’t like reading but did enjoy stories so we’d read a page then she’d read a page of a book. It makes the story move more quickly.

  8. I think the key with early literacy is to tailor it completely to the child’s interests, so you are on the right track. All research in early literacy points to the fact that quantity, not quality, makes a difference: so, it doesn’t matter what your kid reads, just that she reads a lot. Check out your non-fiction section. My husband read books about military aviation exclusively as a young child. Find books about math, books about animals/science/etc. Journaling about her math/science/etc might also be a great project to encourage her to write. Writing is a huge aspect of math/science life!

    The Artful Parent is an awesome art blog.

  9. you are a genius. i’m trying these! what do you use for the easel paper??

  10. I have no kiddies, but that is seriously presh! im putting it in my memory bank for later!

  11. Such fun ideas! Love when they don’t realize they’re being tricked into learning. :) And I’ve also wondered what the purpose of the white crayon was….now I know. ;)

    Another fun spelling game for kids is to give them letters on sticky notes–then give them a word to spell and they have to race, one letter at a time, to put them in a designated place in order. If Allie likes to run around, that might be right up her alley! (ha…no pun intended…bet you’ve never heard that one before? Lame, Erin.)

  12. Great idea! I have a hard time getting my son to write anything, so I’m definitely going to borrow this. : )

  13. Great ideas! I think I might have to steal the framed verses one since my mom is K’s cubbie teacher. What a special thing!

  14. Love it! She is such a smart little girl, and I’m SURE Grandma will love and treasure that present FOREVER!!

  15. I’m SO glad you linked this up this week because I was going to haul myself over here and demand that you link it if you hadn’t already because I.loved.this.

    (And I’m featuring it next week…now there’s something to look forward to for the next 6 days!)

    This is my first year homeschooling. I didn’t do all your cool state-learning and such with my firstborn (a) because, apparently I’m lazy, and (b) there’s something about having two kids 18-months-apart that dampens one’s enthusiasm for making sure the firstborn is the smartest child to ever emerge from a womb (which is a pursuit that I hold in high regard, so don’t take that as a mocking thing, please…we did lots of reading/letter practice early…just nothing awesome like state-learning).

    ANYhoo, I digress. But my point is that I’m seriously lacking in creativity sometimes when it comes to schooling, and therefore I’m copying your ideas shamelessly and gleefully (today, in fact).

    My poor, workbook-burdened boys will be so thrilled! : )


  16. What a totally sweet and thoughtful momento that I am sure will be greatly cherished. I think you won some blogger points on that one, too! :}

  17. Is Ali writing in a Zulily outfit? I feel your pain. I have the app and it is WAY too easy to spend some serious cash. Now I have to thank you for my new FB auction obsession as well! I’m thinking you may have to do some ” ‘splainin” to my husband!

    • Yes indeed. That was her FIRST Zulily outfit that was quite an embarrassment to me. Oops. But I’ve become a bit obsessed lately, too – they have such great stuff!!

  18. Edoardoprimo says:

    Un abbraccio, Edo

  19. Fun! White crayons are for colouring on dark paper. But your solution is creative too. I’ve done kind of the opposite thing where you colour an entire piece of paper with crayon and then cover it in black paint. Then you scratch away the paint (easiest if still a bit wet) to make a picture with surprising colours.

    I love (LOVE) the bible verses. What a special gift. Can’t wait until Elizabeth is old enough to do that.

  20. I want a kid so we can write secret messages to each other. That would be the extent of my actual responsibility.

  21. Jae-Breezy says:

    AHA!!! I knew I “got you” for a reason. The way you think, the methodical ways, the order, the structure, the graphs, the spreadsheets, etc. You are an Accountant, me, an Analyst. Too funny. I remember when you had your internet issues (that I’d like to think I caused since I had just discovered your site) I created a nice comment that was wiped away in the internet madness. In the comment I had asked you if you used to be in Finance because of the charts, graphs and ways in which you presented data were all too familiar. Even the way you kind of over-analyzed things was a bit comforting. haha. Oh and another funny thing… hubby is an engineer. One more funny thing, we live in CT but he is originally from Alabama.


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