A new year and a new venture, or adventure is more like it. Thanks to the vision of my oldest daughter, Katie, we are trying out a blog about one of our favorite activities in the world- READING! While I have degrees, professional experience etc… with this things called reading from a teaching and research vantage point, I still think that the insights and lessons I gained from my own children learning to read, and struggling to learn to read make up my greatest bank of knowledge which I am happy to share with others in hopes that it may help another child bridge the gap into becoming a successful reader. I’m going to start with my oldest and work my way through the five, very different children, and very different learners of reading. Thanks kids. I love you all!
I’ve already changed my mind! Readers (and writers) can do that you know. I’m going to start with myself. My own transition to becoming a reader is surely my foundation from which all else was fixed.
I have so many memories as a child. Good memories. Marvelous adventures. Many wonderful relatives who spent time with me, building my bank of experiences on which I draw to this day. Reading, however, is somehow linked to most of my memories. As an only child of educated people, and from an extended family who valued education, books were part of my life from my earliest experiences. Bedtime stories were the norm. Books as gifts were looked forward to on any occasion. I remember when I was three, I had the chicken pox. My mother worked as a secretary and I usually went to “nursery school.” My dotted physique remanded me to being home with a babysitter. I can see in my mind’s eye my mother coming home early one afternoon. She had with her a bag. When the sitter left, mother sat by me on the couch and produced Golden Books, one after the other. There was Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and one about farm animals. She read them to me several times that evening and I loved it. I still have the Sleeping Beauty book. Even though it looks as aged as I do, I have read that very book to my children and grandchildren and the pictures and story is just as wonderful!
My paternal grandfather had a great reading lap. I wonder how many times I crawled up there with books in my hands? He never told me that he was too busy yet I know that he probably was. In his deep, commanding voice, he read me the classics, and Bible stories. He changed his voice to become different characters, and he would add personal stories that fit just right with whatever book we were reading. Papaw, as we called him, would get tired and skip a page here or there. I don’t think that I ever fell for it and as I reminded him that he missed one, I can see the smile on his face as he obediently turned back to read every page.
My maternal grandmother was the smartest person I know. She was the daughter of immigrants and was selected to attend a public school for gifted children. Life was hard and she only went through the 8th grade. She raised 5 children as a single parent when her husband disappeared and those children say that they never knew that they were poor. Poor wasn’t the word for it! Somehow in their poverty, books were available treasures and they all read. Grandma read herself into knowledge that I would have put up against Ph.D.s any day. She was wise and smart. She worked in factories until she retired. I would go and stay with her and couldn’t wait to explore her bookshelves. Every night, I would snuggle in her twin bed with her in our flannel jammies. She would read to me until she literally fell asleep and dropped the book! It was Grandma that read me Grimms Fairy Tales and developed the movie screen in my mind from stories. The Twelve Dancing Princesses was the kicker. I could see the beautiful ball gowns, the secret passage, and the lake that had to be crossed to get to the underground palace where they danced with their princes, and the book wasn’t illustrated! If I had a dollar for every time she read me that story to sooth my pleading for it, I would be a rich woman today.
I went to Kindergarten as a reader. I understood how stories and books worked. They were totally familiar to me and working with them was not overwhelming to me. While I don’t believe in teaching reading strictly from a curriculum of phonics, that is what I experienced in Kindergarten. I caught on quickly to that aspect of reading because I had already had the balance of reading for meaning at home.
When my dad traveled, mother and I would read novels aloud to each other, The Wizard of Oz, Little Women, The Borrowers, and books I bought from school book clubs. As our family traveled, it was inevitable that we would locate a book from that region. Staying on Prince Edward Island for a month as a middle schooler pushed me over the edge of falling in love with Anne of Green Gables and all of her companions.
I was brought up as a reader and transitioning into the skills and activities it takes to be a reader just melted in to me seamlessly. I wish it worked that way for everyone, but it doesn’t. That will be what I share with you next.