Understanding this principle from years of mentoring youth, my wife began a new holiday tradition last year that has brought literacy more deeply into the culture of Christmas and into the heart of our three year old daughter.
Using a string of 24 tiny pails clad in green and red ribbon, our advent calendar does not contain chocolate. Instead, each morning when she awakes, my daughter runs to the buckets hung carefully along the stairs that lead downstairs. With great pride she counts the days of December until she arrives at the one containing a note, or more accurately, a clue. A simple rhyme or riddle written by a Christmas elf (a.k.a. mom) points toward the hidden treasure.
One, Two, Three
You’ll find me where
the cat goes pee
(Okay, this classy example was mine but you get the point.)
With a finger in the air revealing her revelation, my daughter exclaims, “The litter box!” and off she goes, tearing through the house to where the litter box is kept. Near by, she finds wrapped the familiar Christmas cloth, a gift! Or more accurately, a book!
As excited as if it were actually Christmas morning, she unties the bow, pulls off the cloth and looks at the book for a few seconds before holding it up and asking one of us to read it to her.
The books are almost always library books so there is no expense and every year we can mix it up. And when Christmas has passed, while the pails come down and are put away, the desire to be read to has increased and the memory of the holiday has been enriched. Best of all, I am watching all sorts of pre-reading skills emerge in my daughter, forming a solid foundation for the advent of literacy.
by Michael Trotta, Sagefire Institute