Feb 10, 2014

My Writer’s Journey, Encouraging a Love of Reading and Writing in Children, and a Blog Birthday Celebration!

One year ago today, I posted my very first blog post. I started blogging to share my writer’s journey, and it has been a lot of fun! My favorite thing about blogging, however, has been the new friends I’ve made along the way, and the ideas, stories, and support readers have shared. Thank you to everyone who stops by to read, and to all of you who have taken the time to respond. It is truly a gift to have such a wonderful community of writers and readers to exchange ideas with!

To celebrate my blog’s first birthday, I have a special guest post to share, written by Dr. Ernice Bookout. In her long career, Ernice has been an elementary school teacher and a college education professor, she’s served as a Title I teacher, and she’s worked as a Reading Recovery® teacher and teacher leader. She has a PhD in literacy and is one of the foremost experts in reading instruction and education that I know. And she also happens to be my mom!

When Mom asked me several months ago if she could write a guest post for my blog, I said sure—there is SO much we can learn from her, trust me. So for today’s post, she’s written “an open letter to my daughter the writer,” where she shares the beginning of my writer’s journey and everything she did to encourage a love of reading and writing in my sisters and me from a very young age. It was fun to take this “walk down memory lane,” and to reflect on the little things that make us who we are. (Warning: there is a definitely a bit of “mom bias” in here, but moms are always the biggest cheerleaders, right?☺)

* * * * *
Dear Becky,

Your recent excitement as you anticipated attending a writer’s conference reminded me how much you’ve always loved stories and books and reading, and how you’ve evolved as a writer throughout your life. Reading your blog entries continues to remind me of your lifelong fascination with words and poetry. The following is a brief overview of a few of the many milestones you’ve passed on your journey to becoming a master weaver of words.

Who could have foreseen how you would come to love the way words blend together into images and ideas? Not I! I only knew that as an undergraduate English major and teacher of reading to young children, I wanted my brand new baby girl to learn to love language and reading as much as I do. So, we read poetry. ALL THE TIME!  Before you were born, and as soon as we brought you home, I read to you. We started by reading through tattered, orange Childcraft poetry volumes several times. You had your favorites, early on. Your very favorite poem was “The Cupboard,” by Walter DeLaMare:

I know a little cupboard,
With a teeny tiny key,
And there's a jar of Lollypops
For me, me, me.

It has a little shelf, my dear,
As dark as dark can be,
And there's a dish of Banbury Cakes
For me, me, me.

I have a small fat grandmamma,
With a very slippery knee,
And she's the Keeper of the Cupboard
With the key, key, key.

And when I'm very good, my dear,
As good as good can be,
There's Branbury Cakes, and Lollypops
For me, me, me.

Even before you could put two or three words together into sentences, you were gleefully completing the last words of each line when we read this poem. Along with an appreciation for words, you also developed a lifelong love of beautiful sounds, in the form of the music you heard on a regular basis. Your Dad would hold you in his arms at the piano and play Chopin nocturnes. I firmly believe this contributed to your remarkable auditory and verbal memory.   

Somewhere along the way you learned to read, all by yourself, without being formally taught. Don’t ask me how, because I was not aware you were reading until I went to a kindergarten open house, where you excitedly read an entire chart story to me. When I asked your teacher about this secret skill, she informed me you were reading when you came to school. When I asked you about this, you explained you thought I would “make a big deal out of it!”  (I personally think you were remembering my in-depth linguistic study on your younger sister’s language acquisition when you were four—perhaps you didn’t wish to be the subject of my graduate research papers.) 

Around kindergarten or first grade, you began writing in earnest. You made up stories and engaged in therapeutic writing activities. You created fanciful adventures with Candy Cane, an enormous pastel candy striped dinosaur who lived in our back yard. You even inspired me to write a story about him for my graduate creative writing course, called “The Coming of Candy Cane,” all about how I didn’t believe he was real, and how you proved me wrong. Then, when our kitten was run over, I suggested you and your sister think of ten good things about our kitten (based on the book The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst, the story of a family who found comfort when they lost a beloved cat by thinking of ten good things about the cat). By late that afternoon, the front of our house was covered with chart paper, all dedicated to the memory of that precious kitten.

When we moved from Florida to North Carolina you kept on writing. You were blessed with wonderful elementary school teachers who fostered your writing by actually allowing you to write instead of doing mindless worksheets and repetitive textbook exercises. You kept on writing at home, publishing The Bookout Neighborhood News, with such headlines as, “Mom Burns Toast, Smells Burny-burn.” Sometime during these years you informed me you planned to publish a book someday, and I, of course, believed you.

For three years at Crest Junior High School you reported on school news for the local weekly paper. Among other things, you helped your teacher edit a cookbook of stories about family recipes, one of my all time favorite Christmas gifts. You kept on writing all through high school and college and in the years beyond. You even majored in English at N.C. State, and while there you volunteered as a writer for North Carolina Historical Preservation Society publications. You kept on writing when you taught in Florida and when your boys were babies and as they grew. An early article, published in Fort Worth Child when the boys were four, chronicled in detail “A Day in the Life of a Fort Worth Area Mom.” 

You kept on writing when you moved from Ft. Worth, to Houston, to South Carolina. Through all the stages in your writing journey you have kept your focus on your ultimate destination with creativity, consistently, and perseverance.      

So, Right On, My Girl! And Write On and On and On….




  1. Happy Bloggy Anniversary, Becky! What a lovely, lovely post. Brought tears to my eyes. God gave you a dear mother and father. He plays Chopin Nocturnes? Swoon.

    1. Thank you, Vijaya. Yes, my dad is a very talented pianist--I'm sure I inherited my love of music from him!

  2. What a beautiful letter! Thanks for letting us be a part of it. It's my fondest hope that my little guy will grow up just like this, surrounded by a love of words. Happy 1st Blog Birthday! =)

  3. Dear Becky,
    Happy First Birthday to you and your blog! What a neat way to celebrate with a guest post by your Mother. It is indeed an honor to know you and to learn how your Mother interpreted your interest in reading and writing at a young age and how she and your father helped nurture and believe in you.

    I had the privilege to meet your Mother. She's a jewel. You're great writers.

    Do something fun together to celebrate you!

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Thank you, Joan! And thanks again for all of your encouragement--you were the one who made me start thinking, "Hmmm...writing a blog might be fun!" = )

  4. Happy, Happy Blog-a-Verse-Ary, my friend! (Yes, I made that word up!) Like your wonderful Mama, I am so proud of you! You are such an inspiration to all of us and I am so happy to be a small part of your amazing writing journey! I second the Write on and on and on! :-)

    1. Thanks, Ann. You are so sweet! I LOVE the word "Blog-a-Verse-Ary"--how clever!

  5. Happy Blog Birthday, Becky! It is wonderful to see your history as a writer through your mother’s eyes. You have become the talented writer and person she glimpsed in that little girl. I agree: Moms are the best cheerleaders!

  6. Becky, what a wonderful story by your mom about the development of your love and passion for writing. Very inspiring! I had never thought about starting my children with poetry, but it is easy to see the impact it can have on a young developing mind. It is very interesting to read about your journey. Congratulations on your anniversary!


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