Learning to Read

I had to do a little research and a little decision-making tonight for Mara’s Tale.

She’s starting to learn to read, which is awesome and will set up several other scenes to come.  However, she’s learning to read in a fantasy world with technology similar to the middle ages or Renaissance, from a herbalist in the poor district of town.  This means I can’t have her using lined paper and a pencil, the way I learned to read and write.  What would she use?  Slate and chalk?  Charcoal and… what?  The little research I could do online turned up quill pens and ink on paper, or even pencils.  I’m not sure that the poor herbalist would have access to those, at least not to waste on a child’s practicing.  For a few moments I was stumped.

Of course, this isn’t historical fiction, so in the end I decided to use a variation of it.  Rough paper, probably made nearby, and a charcoal stick seemed to work well for the tale and feel like something that the herbalist would have at her disposal.

Additionally, I remembered that spelling wasn’t standardized until much later (at least, in real history) so I made it a point not to have Mara spell out words or refer to letters explicitly.  It made the section a little trickier to write, but it worked out ok (at least for now).