About the Author
Lori Sugarman, M.Ed., AKA Penelope Sugarplum, is a mother, writer, teacher, trainer, illustrator, conference presenter, humorist, and pediatric/family hypnotherapist. She is the author of Plumdiggity! Developing Student Writers, Plumdiggity ! Sing with Me, Sound with Me, Rhyme with Me, Hear with Me and Read with Me stories. Over the past fifteen years, Lori has developed dozens of after-school creative writing clubs in her local school district, working with close to a thousand enthusiastic and reluctant writers in the 2nd –7th grades.
My parents always forced us to write thank you letters to the relatives for holiday gifts. It was an early introduction to putting my thoughts onto paper. The tooth fairy always left letters under our pillows. As kids we saw language valued through my mother’s constant crossword puzzle attention, word games played in the car, and the humongous dictionary that had its own furniture stand. I realized my father had extraordinary writing ability when I read his Dance of the Dollars- based on a beach trip we all took- Dad, Mom, and us five stair-step kids six years old and younger. The piece was only 3 typed pages, but his words, his vocabulary, his expressions transported me into a language symphony. My senses were kidnapped into the scene and I began floating along, losing all sense of time and space when he described seashells as “gargoyles of a thousand faces bathed, slapped, or tossed by the fickle arms of Mother Ocean.” Through the years I frequently extolled praises of that writing, but my praise was curiously met with stone cold silence from my mother. Many, many years later she informed me that this beach trip resulted in four weeks of silent treatment and almost divorce because my dad left her with five children, two of whom were still in cloth diapers and no car while he disappeared for four days on a deep sea fishing trip with buddy Fred Deluca. The beauty of writing is you create your own reality and can escape the current one.
The next project was the Plumdiggity series of “With Me’s.” When I became aware of Chris Foster’s musical talent, it gave me ideas to develop playful approaches to reading sounds, through music and songs. I support the Phono-Graphix method of reading based around sounds. What makes this method so impactful is the understanding of a child’s mind and logic as a concrete learner. Most reading is taught using propositional logic – rules that say, “sometimes this, sometimes that, sometimes something else.” This abstract reasoning is not appropriate for children much younger than 10. These rules with exceptions create confusion for the child. Most do not like to raise their hand in front of 20 children and ask a question. They think if they do not understand, they are stupid. Phono-Graphix maximizes sound skill, blend skill, and manipulating sounds in and out if the word doesn’t sound correct. Phono-Graphix supports reading as a code of pictures. Two sound pictures (more commonly called letters) can come together to make a third picture (a third sound.) You can have a square and you can have a triangle, but when you put the triangle on top of the square you have a third picture… a house. This logic is understandable to a child much more than “i before e except after c or when sounded as ‘a’ as in neighbor or weigh. Why overload memory with rules that have constant exception? Instead, for example, teach the word receipt as simply two pictures, e and i coming together to make the ‘ee’ sound picture. In weigh, e and i come together to make a different sound picture, the sound of ‘aye.’ Phono-Graphix suggests calling letters “sound pictures.” Reading Reflex, by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness outlines the principals of the Phono-Graphix reading method and is highly recommended for all reading teachers.