Kiddo Update: On Reading and Writing

I’ve been a teacher for 10 years, and since my very first year I’ve been interested in literacy. I’m fascinated by the way people learn how to read, and especially how older children and young adults develop the knowledge and tools to access consistently more advanced texts. So, it should come as no surprise that I’m throughly enjoying watching LP, my five-year-old develop the beginnings of reading and writing skills.

LP has been very into writing letters and words since last fall. Much of this development on letters started in pre-school, especially with writing his name. Now he wants to write or draw almost every day, and he has a note pad he filled with words like “bread,” “dinner,” “school,” “Grandpa,” etc. One of my favorite moments was when he came home from pre-school one day, ran into the living room, pulled out his special word-pad, and asked me “How do you spell ‘Deena Marshall?'” It took me a while to figure out what he was asking. I mean, here was note paper filled with nouns like “blocks” and “carrot,” so what the heck was a “Deena Marshall?” It took a minute, but I finally figured out it was a name he had heard on NPR in the car. So, I spelled it for him the best I could figure. My apologies to Deena if I got it wrong.

What was so fascinating about this moment to me was LP’s awareness of

Some of LP's artwork to go with his writing!

Some of LP’s artwork to go with his writing!

the language around him. It reminds me of when he was 2 and in his “What is that? What is that?” phase as he tried to discern the special name for every object in the house. Except now he is aware that all the words he hears spoken around him have a special code that can be read by anyone, created using only a pencil and paper.

About 4 months ago I was reading Rocket’s Mighty Words to LP. In the book Rocket the dog learns to read, and the book is filled with words and corresponding pictures. At the time I was trying to help LP figure out phonemes, such as the “b” sound, the “t” sound, the “sh” sound, etc. He enjoyed it for a little while, but then pretty quickly just wanted me to read off what all the things in the book were. I pushed a little, and then relented. I don’t want to rush his reading. As an educator myself, I don’t see any major benefit to children “reading early.” As long as my kids are able to decode and have a few sight words by the end of first grade (which is currently considered “late” according to the Common Core) I will be happy. But I was excited about sharing my love for the written word, and that sense of wonder and empowerment it brings with my son. So we sounded out Rocket’s words for a while, and then I let it go.

Fast forward to now and he’s asking me about Deena Marshall and spelling “Grandma” and “Grandpa” almost entirely with me simply breaking down the phonemes for him (such as making a “guh” sound instead of just telling him the word starts with a “G”). And the part I’m most thrilled about? It’s not the progress he is making. It’s not the number of letters he knows. It’s the way he gets excited by figuring out the puzzle of words. It’s the pride he show when he shares his writing and people read it and understand it. It’s the way he is loving learning.

IP has some kitty time!

IP has some kitty time!

Don’t worry; I didn’t forget about our little IP! Our little two-year old has also been quite intellectually busy. Her new favorite bedtime story is Lyle the Crocodile Walks the Dogs. It is a counting book where you count all the dogs Lyle walks on each page. As with all things IP does this in her own way. According to her, the book is called “Lyle the Alligator” so that is how we read it. Additionally, IP is always the one who gets to say the last line “Good Job Lyle.” But she certainly enjoys counting all the dogs, all the way up to 10, on many, many pages, and as loudly as possible. That’s our little girl!

Vegan Oatmeal Muffins


Make sure you read that title closely. These aren’t any ordinary oat muffins. These are amazing little morals of oatmeal yumminess, complete with a crunchy-sweet topping. It’s the best bowl of oatmeal wrapped up in the form of a muffin!

Oatmeal Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Time: 1hour
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Oatmeal Muffins*

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1/3 cup chopped almonds
3 TB brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 TB of canola oil

2 TB ground flax seeds mixed with 6 TB of water
2 TB of Earth Balance butter
6 TB of Earth Balance butter, melted
2 cups of rolled oats
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (soy or almond)

1) For the topping, combine the oats, flour, almonds, sugar, and cinnamon. Drizzle the canola oil over the mixture and mix with either your hands or a fork until all the dry ingredients are moistened.

2) Grease a muffin tin, or line it with muffin liners. Mix the flax meal with the water, whisk with a fork, and then set aside.

3) Melt the first two TB of Earth Balance in a skillet over medium heat.Add oats and cook, stirring frequently until the oats start to turn golden brown (about 6-8 minutes).

4) Transfer the oats to a food processor and process into fine meal, about 30 seconds. Add flour, baking powder and baking soda to the food processor and pulse until combined, about 3 pulses.

5) Stir 6 TB of melted butter and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the milk and the flax-seed mixture and whisk until smooth. Then, here is where a cool “whisk folding” technique comes in. If you mix in the flour/oat mixture too much you will get gummy muffins. But if you don’t get all the dry ingredients mixed in you end up with pockets of dry flour. What to do? Cook’s Illustrated taught me about whisk folding here. Basically, you gently drag a whisk back and forth in the bowl, and then tap it on the edge of the bowl to mix in the rest of the batter. This tapping breaks up the dry flour pockets, but doesn’t over-mix the batter. So, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients into the wet and gently stir. Then, add the rest of the dry ingredients and use “whisk folding” until all the dry ingredients are moistened.

6) Set the batter aside for 20 minutes to let the oat soak up all the liquids. Preheat the oven to 375.

7) After the 20 minute rest time, use an ice cream scooper or large spoon to evenly distribute the batter to your 12 muffin cups. Spoon on the topping and press down very gently. Bake for 18-25 minutes, and check for doneness by seeing if a toothpick comes out of the muffins cleanly. When they are done baking put the muffins on a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*Veganized and adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (Number 120, Jan/Feb 2013)


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