When I was in kindergarten, I can remember my mom coming to school to volunteer and working on flash cards with me. One day I got the word, “knife”. I sounded it out, “Ca-NIFE”, and even though it sounded like a word I had never heard of, I was confident I had it right. Of course she informed me that the “k” was silent and that the word was actually pronounced, “NIFE”. I can distinctly recall saying, “Well, then why did they put the ‘k’ there if you don’t have to say it?!” And all she could do was smile and shrug her shoulders.
Let’s face it–learning to read is hard! It can be downright frustrating for little kids. This means that parents are often distraught as well, especially if their child doesn’t seem to be catching on. So why not find a way to make learning to read fun?
A while back, my oldest daughter came home from a preschool Valentine’s Day party, and she had this cute little “mailbox” she had made from paper plates. That eventually ended up on her doorknob, and I had the idea to start leaving her notes. I didn’t even mean for it to be a tool to help her learn to read, but that’s exactly what it became over time. She absolutely loved to get mail, just like any of us! Each morning she’d jump out of bed and run to her mailbox, so excited to see what was waiting for her.
In the beginning, I would write an uppercase and lowercase letter on an index card, along with a picture that went with that letter. Eventually she had an entire set of homemade flashcards. We would talk about what sound the letter made, and she got a little better with time.
Once she had her letter recognition down, I started to write simple words like “on” and “cat”, and I’d draw a quick picture to help her. That slowly transformed into me writing her short notes, and then the mail I’d leave her gradually got longer and more complex. I can’t tell you how proud she would be when she’d come flying into our bedroom in the morning and read us the note she had found. It was better than the Tooth Fairy! (well, almost…)
The beauty of the doorknob mailbox is that your child doesn’t even realize they are learning. Some kids don’t respond well to sitting at the kitchen table and filling in workbooks while you look over their shoulder. This is a great alternative, and your child will love it! Give it a try!
(Side note: We got the bed above for my daughter from VivaTerra. I remember seeing it in the catalog and loving it so much, but I was afraid it would seem too “old” for her. With a mix of some white furniture (that we painted) and adding dark knobs to tie in the stain of the bed, it all pulled together so well, and I think it seems perfect for a five-year-old. I just love it! It’s my favorite bed in the house. :) Come to think of it, maybe I’ll do a post someday and show you what we did to make her mix of furniture work–except for the bed, we worked with old pieces we already had and gave them a makeover! I love taking worn pieces and giving them new life!)
All three of our older girls now have mailboxes on their doors. I will admit that I’m not as good about leaving regular notes in my new reader’s mailbox like I was with my oldest daughter, but every now and then I remember to leave a little surprise for her. And not to leave anyone out, our older girls like to receive mail, too!
Mail doesn’t just have to come from Mom (or Dad!)… siblings can join the fun, too. I think my kids like to receive notes from one another at this point more than they enjoy getting something from us! It’s so cute to see what they say to one another. Also, sometimes it can be very hard to say the words, “I’m sorry”–so perhaps writing it out and tucking a note in that person’s mailbox might be easier every now and then.
And mailboxes don’t just have to be for kids! You could put one on your door as well. You and your child(ren) can write notes back and forth. So not only is your child now working on reading skills; he or she is also developing the ability to write.
(Some of you have asked about the bed above… you can find it here. :) We love it!! Very high-quality and solid.)
How to Make a Doorknob Mailbox
My girls made their mailboxes as shown below, but your child may have another idea! As long as you can figure out a way for the mailbox to hold letters, you’re good!
I hope this is something that might work for you and your family! Even if your kids are already reading, this could be a fun way for everyone to communicate. Sometimes writing the words is a lot easier than saying them. :)
What creative ways have you found to sneak in some learning?