LEARNING TO READ

“TODAY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING.” English translated road construction sign on  Tokyo street – engrish.com

Very early this morning I had cause to remember learning to read and what that has meant in my life, which is still under construction.

I was three years old when our family moved out to what was then the country. Dad bought an acre of scrub land covered with sagebrush, tumbleweed and mustard weed, where we lived in a four room shack with no indoor plumbing or central heat. We did have electricity and a party-line telephone. A well was drilled and we were fortunate enough to hit artesian so we never needed to pump or prime the well. I loved the well and thought it the most beautiful place of all in winter when it froze where it flowed down the pipe and onto the bare rocks and little branches around it.

We had very few books in our home, although daddy loved the newspaper and we all loved the comics. After dad and mom finished with the paper, I always sat on the floor under the kitchen table and  “looked” at the rest of the paper, along with the comics.

My older brother started school the year we moved, so I was alone a lot. My parents decided that year to buy a set of books called The Book of Knowledge, and I would sit on the floor in front of the wood stove for hours poring over and looking at the different sections and pictures until I practically had them memorized. I particularly loved the literature and Fairy Tale sections where there were tales of villains and heroes. Each year we would receive another book to add to the set. It was called The Book of Knowledge Annual, and I lived for the day it would arrive so I could find out what had been learned in the past year in science, and what literature had been added.

I could hardly wait to go to school so I could learn to read, then I would be able to learn anything in the world. The thought was thrilling to me. I envied my brother and the kids around us who went to school before I did. They would be so far ahead of me. I hated the thought.

Finally I was six and the big day arrived. Kindergarten at last, and I would learn to read. All of my senses were alert, and, sure enough, the teacher stood up and talked about the great things in store for us, including learning to read! She picked up a strip of blue colored paper and said, “This is the color ‘blue’ and this is the word ‘blue’ written on it.” She repeated the same thing with a strip of red paper. I was so bewildered. She repeated the same thing with an orange strip, and then added, “Someday you will know how to read, and no one will have to tell you what the words are.”

I went into absolute shock. Of course the words said “blue”, “red”, and “orange”, what else could they possibly say? Then it hit me, this was reading and I hadn’t known it. I already knew how to read!

I wish I could tell how I learned to read without ever realizing what I was doing. I remember the stories, King Bruce and the Spider, Robin Hood, Beauty and the Beast, I had read them all in The Book of Knowledge. I had also read about World War II and even the Rape of Nanking in The Reader’s Digest, which a neighbor subscribed to.

After school that afternoon I told my mom I didn’t have to go to school anymore because I already knew how to read.

They still made me go to school, even though “See Spot Run” held little attraction for me.

Leave a Reply