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Henry and the Spelling Monster: A Phonics Story

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
April 28, 2024

I wrote this short story a few years ago, back when I was helping my child learn how to read. For a while I had the idea that maybe I'd find an illustrator and publish it as a "real" children's book. Then I forgot all about it. When I found it in my files I decided to release it online. The image was created using

A friendly, orange, furry monster holds a sign with the number 8.

"Mom," asked Henry, "why is spelling so HARD?"

"Spelling is just ridiculous! And I'll NEVER learn how to spell ri-di-cu-lous!"

"Spelling is hard, it is true," said Henry's mom.

"Why does 'eight' sound like 'ate'?" asked Henry.

"And why do I have to write out 'eight' anyway?"

"Why can't I just write a big fat 8?"

Just then the Spelling Monster popped out and ate Henry's eight.

"Mom! Mom! The Spelling Monster ate my eight! He ate my eight! He ATE it!" Henry shouted.

"He did eat your eight! He ate it all up! Now how will we count to ten?" asked Henry's mom.

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, nine, ten—no that's not right!" Henry shouted again.

Just then the Spelling Monster burped. Loudly. And then he burped again.

"Mom," said Henry, "I think the Spelling Monster is sick. He ate my eight and now he does not feel so great."

"He is turning green. Watch out, Henry!"

Just then the Spelling Monster held his hand to his mouth and looked quite green indeed.


The Spelling Monster bent over and out came the eight.

"Gross," said Henry. "It's covered in slime!"

Henry's mom held her nose, grabbed the eight with a towel, and took it to the sink.

"Ugh," she said. "I'll wash it off and it will be good as new."

"Mom, why does 'eight' sound like 'ate' anyway? That seems crazy. 'Eight' looks like it should say 'eh-ih-ghu-huh-tuh,' not 'ate.' What's up with that?" Henry asked.

Henry looked wide-eyed at the Spelling Monster, who was looking quite green again.

"Yes that is odd, it is true. Eight is spelled 'eight' because of its past."

"People of old called it 'akhto' or 'octo.' Now people of Spain call it 'ocho' and people of Germany call it 'acht.'"

"We call an eight-sided figure an 'octagon.' We call an eight-tentacled animal an 'octopus.' So 'eight' has a long history. And now we say it like 'ate.'"

"Bluuuurp!" grunted the Spelling Monster again.

Out came a gate, then a weight, then a crate. Then out came a bail of hay!

Out came a rake, then a gauge, then a pail, soon followed by a ball from croquet!

"Oh dear," said Henry's mom. "It looks like the Spelling Monster ate everything he could find with the same 'a' sound as 'ate.'"

"How come so many things sound like 'ate,' Mom?" Henry asked.

"All of our words have a history. Think of all the ways to spell the same sound.

"'Snail' and 'rain' use 'ai'.

"'Baby' uses just 'a'.

"'Eight' uses 'eigh'.

"'Straight' uses 'aigh'.

"'Pay' uses 'ay'.

"'Ballet' uses 'et'.

"In your arm there is a 'vein' spelled with 'ei'.

"'Gauge' uses 'au'.

"'Ate' uses an 'a' with an 'e' on the end."

"Like when Dad 'ate' the 'cake' and didn't share," interjected Henry sullenly.

Henry's mom winked at Henry and smiled.

"Can we take a break?" asked Henry. "I'm getting rather tired of spelling."

"'Break' uses 'ea' to spell the same 'a' sound as 'ate'!" Henry's mom said.

"These words are so hard! They make me sad." Henry said.

"'They' with 'ey' says the same 'a' sound!" Henry's mom exclaimed.

Henry and his Mom were so taken by spelling words with the same 'a' sound as "ate" that they almost forgot about the Spelling Monster.

He was looking much better, not nearly as green.

Henry's mom hollered, "Don't eat that key! Don't eat that ski! Perhaps you'll be happier if you eat this beet."

The monster did eat the beet. And then he smiled with beet-colored teeth.

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