01 August 2011

Memories Monday - Childhood Reading

I've been a reader for... well, as long as I can remember.  I know that I started school being able to read.  I remember the days of trying to teach my sister to read, convinced that she was reading when she had just memorized the words to We Can Jump.  I loved to read anything that I could get my hands on.  That hasn't changed in over 30 years, either.

My mother told my kindergarten teacher, Mrs Wilbur, that I could read, but she was very skeptical. She thought that I, like my little sister, had just memorized the words to books.  One couldn't blame her.  I'm sure she'd heard parent after parent insist that their child could read when they couldn't.  So she smiled and nodded, then just taught me with the rest of the class.

Until one afternoon nap time, that is.  That was the day she was writing something at her large, wooden desk and she heard a little voice behind her repeating what she wrote.  She turned around to find that I had gotten up from my cot and was actually reading.  She couldn't deny my mother's charges any longer.  I don't remember exactly when this was, but I do know it must have been fairly early in the year (reason to be explained later).  Within the next couple of days, I had two less nap days a week because I was going to one of the second grade teachers for reading instruction.

The exact details of what we read together have disappeared like smoke on the wind, but I still have flashes of memory of sitting next to Mrs Grey (the second grade teacher) at one of the small tables in her classroom and reading.  I know that I came away from kindergarten a far better reader than when I'd left it.

One of the things I do remember doing with Mrs Grey, however, was writing my own story.  My family and I had traveled from New York to Florida for Christmas that year.  We were going to see my grandparents.  They'd moved only the year before and we thought it would be a nice family vacation.  I still have memories of that trip (which may be a later Memories Monday entry), and when I got back, Mrs Grey and I talked about the trip and about what I wanted to say.  I don't remember if I did the writing or if she did - it could have gone either way.  But I do remember large sheets of paper, with practice lines at the bottom and blank areas at the top.  I remember coloring the pictures (which weren't very good - art has never been my strong suit) and I remember dark black marker words below it.  And I remember standing in front of my classmates reading the story of my trip for them as they sat on the listening rug.

When first grade started, I was back with my class for reading.  I was bored with it, because I'd learned so much more the year before.  But first grade didn't have nap time, and I couldn't go to another teacher for advanced reading.  So I muddled through, knowing the things that the teacher was teaching, yet not being able to learn more.  Some of my classmates were catching up with me, but not a lot.  In second grade, we were separated into reading groups and the group I was in was able to do independent reading if we finished the assignment.  There were these different colored boxes of cards with short reading comprehension stories on them.  Each color was a different level.  By the end of the year, I'd breezed through those as well.

Reading has always been an important part of my life.  Even when I couldn't get what I needed from my teachers in school, I always found a way to keep pushing my learning forward.  But I'll never forget Mrs Wilbur and Mrs Grey, taking the chance to give me what it was that I needed back in 1979.