Today we introduced adjectives and as a way to practice the skill, we colored plain white paper pumpkins and then wrote a describing word for each pumpkin. As I walked around, helping each sprout sound out their describing word, I was amazed at the letter sounds I was hearing after only twenty-one days of school.

Last spring, my principal sent out an email stating he had a new book called The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers: A Quick and Easy Approach to Helping All Students Succeed and wondered if anyone wanted to borrow it. Being the nerd I am, I thought, why not. I got the book, put it in my bag and there it sat… for weeks. One rainy Sunday afternoon, I pulled it out and read the entire book. Based on research, it has some ‘out there’ concepts about how children learn to read, but I thought it sounded promising. I wondered what Mrs. D. would think about it.

Without telling her my thoughts, I gave her the book and asked her to read it and share her thoughts. She agreed, the book’s approach was different, but also seemed revolutionary. We prepped the materials and began the program after the first few weeks of school.

Basically, the book proposes that letter naming (a big deal in kindergarten) has absolutely zero to do with a child’s ability to read. This was a major shift for Mrs. D. and I as letter naming has always been integral to kindergarten success. We’ve always been told, a child’s letter naming ability directly correlates to their ability to read. The book explains, when you look at a word, your brain decodes the sounds only, and the names of the letters are irrelevant. A system for teaching letter sounds only is laid out step by step in the book.

Well today, as I walked around helping children with sounds, I was amazed at the number of sounds even some of the our lowest sprouts had. The program is not only working, it’s wildly successful. We are truly empowering children to feel successful, even so early in the year. We always tell our students to take risks, but how often do we heed our own advice? This is one risk I’m thankful we took.