“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
Let’s talk about the first book I read.
Wait, lets back up a little further to the first word I read. It was “Megamart.” I’m not one-hundred percent sure how old I was. I can tell you that I was older than most kids are when they read their first word.
I remember driving through the parking lot in the evening and seeing the glowing letters bounce off the glass of our car window. I could almost feel a physical click in my brain. I saw the letters M-E-G-A-M-A-R-T and for the first time they were more than just letters. The puzzle pieced together and it was an actual word.
Sometime in third grade I started to get pulled out from my regular class and given a whole bunch of tasks to complete. I don’t remember all of them. I do recall one dealt with pattern blocks. You looked at a picture and had to arrange the blocks in the same order. I really liked that one.
After that I didn’t have to stay in my class during reading time anymore. I got to go into this class where the assignments were much more fun and hands on. We did lots of readers theaters. We recorded them on a cassette tapes (showed my age right there). One of them had to do with a castle and I came up with the idea of placing the recorder close to the pencil sharpener and turning it without a pencil so you heard the gears grinding. This was the sound of the bridge lowering over the moat.
Fast forward three years and my family moved to Houston Missouri. I hadn’t been in school too long. One day my mother said I needed to wait for her at the school after my last class. We walked into a room of ALL my teachers, my principal, and a few teachers I don’t know yet. My mother and I joined the circle. Twenty minutes later I found out I had learning disabilities and cried on the drive home.
I was diagnosed and put on an IEP in third grade. (I’m sure my teacher friends figured that out a few paragraphs ago.) It is no exaggeration to say that I had absolutely no idea I was any different than my peers in elementary school. Never once was I treated as dumb or incompetent (that didn’t happen until a junior high comm. arts teacher questioned me about how I managed to get an A on an AR quiz on the biography of Lincoln). Up until then, I thought I was a great student.
My mother says she used to call me the “great fake.” Her and my teachers weren’t ever really sure if I could read. Right up until third grade, where much more independent reading takes place, the disparity between me and my peers finally became obvious. Before that I was quite tricky. I’d con other people into reading things for me. Or, I’d pick up books that I had heard read out loud before and could tell you details of if asked.
Yesterday I shared with my friend Rachael that my loose “theme” for this years slice of life was “Firsts.” She asked what my post would be about today. When I shared ,”the first book I read” her response was, “you remember the first book you read!?” Well, yes. In fact I do, because it wasn’t until fifth grade.
Now, I should clarify. This is the first book I read without any outside support. I had read other books before, but not all by myself. I had pretended to read a lot of books by myself but hadn’t actually accomplished it until Mr. Allen’s class.
Mick Harte Was Here is a very sad book. I don’t know why it resonated with me so much. I don’t remember what finally hooked me and convinced me struggle (which I did) through to finish it. What I do remember was feeling triumphant when I read the last word on the last page, took an AR quiz, and got 100%! That was my first A on a book quiz ever, even with teacher assistance.
I often wonder what my reading teachers would think about me now. The little girl who didn’t read at all until third grade, now reads one to two books a week. The little girl who only ever looked at the pictures read an 8,000 + page series (written in multiple languages) in less than 4 months. The little girl who hated reading now vehemently espouses the virtues of sticking with it even if its difficult, it really will pay off.
Of all the skills that I was behind on and worked to improve in my 10 years as a special educations student, reading was the one that changed my life the most. Once I managed to master it, it didn’t just open up new doors it open up new worlds.
-Where we go from here is a choice I leave to you.
(IF your not a nerd like me, thats the last line of the Matrix series.)