May 1, 2011

Raised right: reading to kids

Those of us who enjoy reading probably had a parent who read to us when we were young. My mother read to me from the second I was born, thank goodness.

Books were my childhood. Reading was what I did, literally all the time. I spent every day in my bedroom with a book in my hand, and I loved it.

Even before first grade I was reading books. I remember enjoying the "Freddy the Pig" books for a short time when I first began to read on my own. But I soon moved on to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I thought they were scary and tons of fun. My mother took me to the library every week and those trips were really exciting. New books to read! I pulled her along, not the other way around.

My early reading prowess was a testament not to me but to my mother's dedication. She noticed my interest very early on and was generous with her time and always willing to respond to my questions about language. I remember seeing it as a puzzle and I was wild to understand every bit of it. I was interested, which helps a lot. But only a parent can introduce you to books. They don't materialize out of thin air. And she always permitted me to read as much as I wanted to. That was very important.

In any case, I remember my horror on the very first day of school when the teacher hauled out the goddamn Dick and Jane books to teach us to read. The image above shows a couple of pages from one of those scintillating books. I became sick when the teacher wrote three words on the blackboard and said, very slowly, "See . . . . Spot . . . . run". And this was all new to the kids around me! It was a nightmare.

I remember thinking, "Someone please tell me I'm in the wrong room! This can't be the 'school' thing they've been telling me about. That was supposed to be interesting!" I wanted to cry, I really did. My brain was screaming, "but they said I'd learn stuff here!" Oh well, I knew I could always go home and read something interesting after school. What a letdown.

I thank my mother for her dedication to teaching me the most important skill of my life. You done good, maw. So, did a parent read to you when you were very young? And did you pass this way of life on to your own children? How'd that turn out? And if you really feel like jawing for a while, did you also experience horror because you could read when you got to school, while others couldn't? I wonder if I wasn't so alone in this experience, after all.

1 comment:

Artichoke Annie said...

Remembering Dick & Jane - Yes, books were abundant in the home I grew up in. I was read to each night before bedtime and I have a vision on my mom and dad in bed at night each reading a book. The were subscribers to the Book of the Month Club.

But it was sitting with my grandmother that I really remember learning to read. We read concurrently The Bible and John Steinbeck's The Wayward Bus. Yes, pitting Dick and Jane against those two books isn't even a fair fight.