The first day of COMM writing class our Professor asked us to brainstorm for five minutes. Write anything down that came to mind when asked this question: “What is one of your earliest memories regarding reading or writing?” We then polished and finished these essays in later classes. This is what I came up with.
At the age of four my favorite storybook was a children’s Bible; I would constantly pester my mother to read it to me. After she had read it to me numerous times, I finally memorized the story of Noah.
My mother is a stay-at-home mom who, from the beginning, took time to teach us no matter what she was doing – including cooking. One morning I followed her into the kitchen where she was preparing lunch. Both my arms were preoccupied with the chunky illustrated Bible, but my little head was pondering where best to sit. I clumsily scooted my book across the counter.
I decided to climb onto the counter. From here I could observe the twinkle on the steel pots as the sun tickled them. Here I was close to my mother. Satisfied, I opened up my book and turned to my favorite story – Noah. Little did I know I had chosen the place where I would begin an adventure that would last me a lifetime.
The smells of rice, beans, and fresh baked bread interweaved in the air and the mystery of words began to unweave itself. My fingers traced under the words and I read them out loud for my mother’s approval or help. Suddenly, things began to sink in and make sense. I felt like Helen Keller must have felt the first time she understood that words were linked to objects. Likewise, I understood that these sets of letters, which until now had simply been pesky prints that took up precious room on the illustrated pages, were linked to the sounds we make when we speak.
I could recognize the letters! I could understand what sounds to make! I could identify the words!
I was thrilled with this realization, as was my mother, but it was a fleeting thrill that lasted only until I turned the page. I had not memorized the story of the tower of Babel and these new groups of letters were foreign to me. Frustrated, I now wanted my mother to read me the story of Babel so I could memorize it too. She refused.
Instead she patiently turned the page back and asked me to point out the words I could recognize from Noah’s story. Then we flipped the page and I found the same words in the story of Babel. Word by word I began to understand that the sounds in one word could be readjusted to form new words. I now had my first taste of literary addiction.
From then on reading became a happy part of my life. It wasn’t always smooth going and sometimes when reading out loud in church disciples became “dis-ciples” and spirits became Sprite. But learning to read is a process I look back on with fondness and I am very thankful I got the chance to experience it.
I loved going back and remembering how I began to read. Now I invite you to share.. what are some of your earliest memories with reading or writing.. or maybe another early memory?