Thursday, May 13, 2010

Learning to Read

I have a favorite photograph of my mother and me when I was about two. We are sitting together and looking at a newspaper, the sheer delight showing on both our faces. I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have had a mother who read to me on a regular basis.

In the early 1950's there was a multi-volume series of books from Childcraft and my maternal grandfather, wanting to foster all things intellectual in his grandchildren, presented us with the complete set. Really, it was quite the comprehensive education--classical mythology, poetry, fairy tales, fables, all manner of wonderful literature, sciences, art, even math (largely untouched volume out of the set).
My love of literature came at an early age. One might think that this gave me a tremendous advantage in learning to read and write, even speak. It did not, at least not right away. I was painfully shy and tongue-tied, so unsure of myself as to be immobilized sometimes in front of strangers. That made school difficult as a social and an emotional experience. In fact, it was a comment made universally from my kindergarten teacher right on through college professors--"I assumed she was kind of slow until... Still waters run deep."
I didn't have a learning disability, but mastering the movements of a pencil was taxing; spelling was an out and out mystery; deciphering words on a page hard work. I managed to do okay with the help of kind and understanding teachers, and when I was in third grade the light came on. I was sitting at my desk when I started reading about a frog shedding its skin and the connection was suddenly made. The words you read are the same as the words you hear! You read the words, you hear them in your head, you see the pictures, you understand! Wow! I saw that naked frog and I laughed out loud. This got a sharp look from my teacher who was instructing in something she did not consider amusing, then a very surprised look when she saw it was me, the quiet one, disrupting her lesson. I was off and running (reading) after that.
I haven't stopped reading since then and it is a favorite and indulged pastime. It got to the point that my mother would tell me to put the book down and go outside to play. "You'll ruin your eyes with your head stuck in a book all the time!" Well, I did turn out to be very nearsighted, but I'm blaming heredity for that. I hope my eyes never get so bad that I cannot read. If they do, I hope my hearing holds out so I can at least listen to books on tape (or what ever they are called now).


  1. What a wonderful story. I do so hope my grandson loves to read when he becomes an adult. He certianly lives in a household that reads to him all the time. I love these kind of stories. People who do not enjoy reading have no idea what they're missing in life. I also believe we put too much pressure on children to early.

  2. Loved that post. It brought back memories (one of my very favorite) of my brother and I after baths, snuggling in bed with Mom as she took us on adventures with the likes of Gulliver, the brothers Grimm, Mother Goose and Robert Louis Stevenson.
    Besides installing a love of books, it is also an amazing bonding time. Thank goodness there were no TV or DVDs in those days.

  3. Such a very interesting story about your learning to read! Wow! I never heard anyone explain how it felt to suddenly be able to do something they had been striving to do. What a blessing that your mom and grandparents valued reading they way they did!


I appreciate readers' comments so much. You don't even always have to agree with me.