I started reading before I was three years old. I don’t recall the steps involved in learning how to read; when the alphabet started to become familiar to me, or when combinations of letters became recognizable as words. All I know is that, suddenly, I could read.
It was amazing. I could often be found sitting on one of the sofa cushions that I’d yanked to the floor, with a book in my hand and another beside me – just in case. I read at the breakfast and dinner table (when I could get away with it) and one of the lower drawers of my mother’s bureau had been emptied of the clothes it contained and instead filled with my books so that I could have my own mini library.
I didn’t think that it was a remarkable thing to know how to read at that age. It was just a part of who I was and something I loved to do. So, later on when my kindergarten classmates gathered in a circle to sing yet another round of, “Hot Cross Buns” I decided it was a bit more than I wanted to participate in at the time. I scooted away (Hot Cross Buns – really?) toward the shelf of Little Golden Books, and leafed through them to see which I hadn’t already read at home.
A very short time later, one of the teachers came over to where I was happily sitting as I read my chosen book. The details of the conversation escape me, but the overall gist was as such:
Infiltrating Teacher: What are you doing?
Infiltrating Teacher: What are you reading about?
Me: (flipping the book over to show the title on the cover because I didn’t talk much and didn’t feel like being bothered in any case)
Infiltrating Teacher: Do you like the pictures in that book?
Me: The story, too.
Infiltrating Teacher: How do you know about the story? Your mommy read it to you?
Me: I’m reading it.
She didn’t believe me and asked me to read something from the book to her. I did, wondering when she’d go back to direct the chorus of, “Hot Cross Buns” and leave me alone. Though I didn’t realize it then, I discovered later that she must have thought I’d somehow memorized the contents of the Little Golden Book, because she pulled a different book from the shelf and asked me to read something from it.
And I did. Well.
Asking the teaching assistant to mind the class, she took me with her to the principal’s office. I then read for the principal, vice-principal, secretary, and one of the teachers from another class who happened to wander into the office to check her inbox. I’d never had such an audience.
It was determined that I couldn’t stay with my classmates. None of them could read yet (the horror!) and likely wouldn’t learn for another year. I was tested, promoted to a new class, and treated to an entirely new set of books that were neither Little nor Golden.
Books were my outlet and my joy. I would often become annoyed if interrupted while reading. Sometimes I still do. I would actually read books until they fell apart, and would try to tape the spines back together so that I could read them again. It wasn’t uncommon to find random pages lying about because they’d somehow managed to escape their peers.
Sometimes, when it’s quiet and I’m not besieged by so many of the duties that qualify me as an adult, I can still be found sitting with a book in my hand. “Hot Cross Buns” has given way to “So Close” by Ólafur Arnalds, “Nara” by E.S. Posthumus, “Light and Shadow” by Vangelis, “Edge Hill” by Groove Armada, or any number of offerings from my infinite playlist. I don’t always have an actual book in my hand, in the days of tablets and Kindles, but I do still own a handful of real books that I’ll go back and read at least once a year.
I sometimes wonder if my connection to books and my love for reading contributed to my passion for writing. I hardly imagine that a child will ever snatch a sofa cushion down to the floor to read one of my novels, though. Well…maybe. I did read The Exorcist when I was in the third grade and horrified my mother with some of the questions I asked as a result.
Picturing her face made me giggle. Sorry, Mom.
While I have no children of my own, I do hope to make an excellent aunt someday. I’d like for my nieces and nephews to know what an actual book is – to smell the binding and to hear the rustle of the pages as they read. So many kids have what’s known as Swipe Finger and imagination seems to be almost discouraged in some aspects.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love technology. I am a computer geek to my heart, and I’m also a gamer. But, nothing can replace books for me and that’s probably because of the role they played in my development. I hope that one day someone feels similarly about a book with my name on it.