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Terry

Dear Santa ...

Posted by Terry on December 22, 2009 at 6:00 AM in creative literacy
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santaSCAN.JPGI want a wand that works and does real magek.
Love Catherine 2007

As she explained to us, Catherine didn't want something made out of plastic or a tube you load batteries into, she wanted a REAL wand. The kind that goes "poof" and makes what you want appear (and what you don't disappear). Well, because that was the ONLY thing my then 6-year-old daughter wanted, Santa felt compelled to reply with a letter of his own. When the Jolly Elf himself explained that wands are very tricky to make because the ingredients are different for each person, Catherine could accept why hers wasn't under the tree ... yet!

Periodically throughout 2008, Catherine would ask if we remembered the letter and what Santa said. Last year, still hopeful about that wand, she added another request, this time on behalf of her dog. Santa wrote again, explaining why he couldn't bring 15 real squirrels for Casey to chase.

In addition to creating two-way communication, Santa's letters have had another benefit: he is encouraging Catherine to keep writing. While she has always enjoyed reading, writing has always been very hard. In Kindergarten and first grade, her struggle with fine motor skills frustrated her, and even now that she has mastered correct letter form, getting her to write is still a battle. Only when something is important to her - like that wand - will she do it.

santa2.JPGSanta thought he was showing her that he understood her requests. He didn't realize at first that he was becoming a role model. Through this written conversation, he is quietly demonstrating how the two skills complement each other in her growth as a successful person.

Those simple replies from Santa are very important to Catherine. Last Christmas morning she made a beeline for the letter sitting in Casey's stocking, completely ignoring the gifts under the tree. She sat and read it immediately ... it was that imperative. Then she asked if she could write a thank-you letter to Santa. [Yes!]

So what does this have to do with raising readers? Well, it goes back to the idea of modeling our goals. One of the easiest ways for us to get kids to see reading as just a regular part of their life is to catch us reading. The same thing is true of writing ... if I want Catherine to see that writing is important, I need to do more of it around her and with her ... with pen in hand, not sitting at a keyboard.

So in the new year, I'm going to write more notes ... silly notes, story notes, just different things to entice Catherine to keep writing. Speaking of writing ...

When 2010 arrives, Susan Kusel will be back on board at Booklights ... which makes me very happy! I love how she brings the library to us in ways we can use at home. Although I won't be a regular contributor to Booklights every two weeks, I will still be writing about literacy, libraries, and books over at the Reading Tub blog. So I hope you'll stop by and chat there, too.

Here's wishing you times filled with great books, shared stories, and the magic of the season during the holidays and beyond.


5 Comments

Jen Robinson writes...

It's been wonderful having you here at Booklights, Terry.

I hope that Santa is good to Catherine, and to you. And I look forward to hearing how that note-writing plan works out for 2010. Merry Christmas!!

rhonda writes...

I love to write stories for my grade one class and with my grade one class. You have inspired me to leave more notes here and about for individual children.

alex writes...

The year Santa wrote me and my siblings a note was one of the best Christmas memories we have. We actually framed the letter, and keep it in the box of decorations at my parents house.

Laura writes...

I love doing Santa letters every year with my students. Your article makes me think about passing them onto the parents and trying to get them to write back. Education is a feedback loop so its great to get parents involved like this. Good idea.

Terry Doherty writes...

Jen - Thank you so much. I have really enjoyed being here and having the opportunity to pay forward a love of books. I'll be sharing some of the book-y things Santa brought soon.

Rhonda - What a great idea to create add an air of mystery to the writing. Thanks for all you do with your first graders! They are so lucky to have an energized teacher to guide them.

Alex - Thank you so much for sharing. That is so cool that you count the letter among the annual decorations. One of Santa's elves left a letter here before Christmas and it said Santa was a little sad about someone not listening to their parents ... we had tears! and a much better attitude. That Santa has lots of power!

Laura - Be sure to check out Rhonda's idea, too, for leaving notes about. One of my favorite things as a parent is helping Santa, and writing a note is a fun way to do that. Good luck.

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