illustration of a woman in a black dress with long black hair swimming down through the water toward a smaller human figure

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

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How does Kit teach Prudence to read in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

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Kit taught Prudence how to read primarily by using a hornbook.  Hornbooks were handheld boards covered with a thin layer of horn.  They contained similar information to a primer, such as letters and reading passages.  They were shaped in a way that was similar to a paddle.  Kit taught Prudence letters and sounds using a silver hornbook, which had been a gift to her in Barbados.  She also taught the child by writing letters in the sandy floor at Hannah's house.  Kit traced letters with a stick on the floor for Prudence to copy.  She had expected the little girl to be hesitant.  This was not the case:

Boldly Prudence reached to take [the stick] in her own hand, and carefully and proudly she traced the lines herself (The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Chapter 11).

Later, Kit taught Prudence how to write her name using paper and a quill pen.  Prudence's mother had not allowed her to attend Dame School with the other children.  This was what motivated Kit to teach the child.

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