Pretty Beautiful

“It’s so pretty! Wow, it’s so beautiful! Look at that, it’s so pretty! Isn’t it beautiful? Oh, PRETTY!!!”

That was me, age ten, hiking with my family at Mt. Rainier.

“It’s just so beautiful. Oh wow, it’s so pretty!”

This went on for a long time. Everyone got very tired of my inarticulate gushing. That’s when my parents made a rule: no reusing adjectives. If that wildflower was pretty, the next view of the mountain better be magnificent, gorgeous, stunning, awe-inspiring, triumphant, Olympian, mesmerizing, or at the very least amazing.

These days, I’m picky about my adjectives. I want them to pull their weight, to be more than a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Sometimes I say something several times, searching for the right description. I’m sure that can be annoying in its own way, so I won’t blame it on my parents, but I will give them this credit: even at 4,000 feet, with no paper in sight, they made language matter and they made it fun.

Which is just to say that children’s relationship with words and writing is constantly developing. We don’t need to turn summer hikes into mini academic lessons. That wouldn’t be pretty. However, we do model literacy all the time, even on mountains, and we also model what counts as fun.