I don’t actually remember learning how to read.
It seemed like a talent I was born knowing how to do from a young age and I naturally increased those abilities at a pretty fast pace before starting school at the ripe old age of 4.
On my first day of Kindergarten, I was placed at a round table with a tent card labeled, The Phonics Station. My teacher introduced to the ‘Letter People’ and then indoctrinated us to what would become the bane of my school life: worksheets.
As my teacher’s melodic voice recited the directions, I remember thinking that the “S” was a Snake that looked exactly like the Cheshire Cat from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.
Despite being instructed to start at the beginning of the alphabet, the boy next to me decided to spell out his entire name with the letters. The two other children opposite us immediately followed his incorrect direction. I raised my hand, looked around and didn’t see the teacher. So I got up and went over to my cubby and pulled out the brand new book my grandmother had given me earlier in the morning: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She challenged me to read it quickly since a new tv series was starting based on the books.
So I went back to “Letter People Land” and started to read my book while the boy next to me settled into a repetitive etching exercise on his worksheet, “A is for Achoo”, punctuated with a physical sneeze at the end of each sentence.
The other two kids decided it was much more fun to smear the paste on the table and use it as a creative canvas to express themselves with the balance of the ‘Letter People’. I was happy to be transported through the pages of my book from the noisy, stuffy 1970s classroom to the wide open prairie lands of America a century earlier as it was being settled by brave families like the Ingalls’.
Suddenly I felt the book being snatched out of my hands by the teacher. I wanted desperately to tattle on the other 3 children for not following her directions, but I couldn’t as she peppered me with questions around where I got the book and why wasn’t I filling out the worksheet. Hot, crocodile tears exploded from my eyes with a blood-curdling scream as I grabbed the book from her, then bolted out the classroom door and down the hall as fast as my little legs could carry me.
As I sprinted past the classrooms, I was still crying and starting to work out my escape plan to get home home but then everything came to an abrupt halt when I got caught in the stairway and couldn’t open the locked door. I dejectedly sat on a stair, wiping my tears with the back of my wrist. I studied the cover of the Little House book, remembering how only minutes earlier it had transformed from pages into a virtual time machine, transporting me a century earlier to an exciting, different place with a new family. I heard the rapid ‘clackity-clack’ of my teacher’s heels as she briskly walked down the hall and pushed open the heavy door to find me feeling sorry for myself on the stairs.
She quietly sat next to me, offering me a kleenex and, as I blew my nose, she asked if I wanted to read the book instead of do the worksheets. I nodded and we slowly walked back the classroom. Halfway down the hall, we paused as she turned to me and asked if I would read a page from the story out loud. Excitedly, I started the story from the beginning for her, reading word-perfect and using different voices for Ma and Pa and their daughters. My teacher clapped her approval and we returned to the classroom.
By the end of my first week at school, I had finished Little House in the Big Woods and started a series of placement tests. Within a month I was ‘skipped’ as a 4-year old from Miss Shane’s Kindergarten into Mrs. Cooper’s 1st/2nd grade combo classroom. I read the entire Little House series that year, forever linking the plot twists from Laura’s life with my own. Her stories and journals inspired me to start writing about my own life.
Through journaling, I have learned how to shape smart questions and seek the answers to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. And to this very day, I always have at least a trio of books on my bedside table:
1. Non-fiction (generally cookbooks, biographies, technology/digital, designing, gardening and many other categories)
2. Fiction (usually classics, although I recently joined Goodreads and have to say I’ve gotten some great Chick Lit and Modern Fiction recommendations from the community)
3. Scriptures (there is a good reason the Bible is always on top of the Bestseller list)