I saw a news story about an 88 year old woman who had just learned to read for the first time. I wrote this short poem in response and it was published on a poetry website.
Once upon a time
Once upon a time, all she could do
was drift her hands along each silent spine
or turn hieroglyph pages like a visitor
lost in the streets of a foreign land,
her forehead a frown of lines –
a message of bewilderment she hoped
Then, like whispers, or baby footsteps,
or leaves dropping like scraps of tissue
kissed by an infitesimal breeze,
shapes on pages birthed sounds on her lips -
each day a new one, a tiny gift –
and in her mind, dragons, heroines,
castles, pirates, the sighs of reunited lovers.
Can you remember anything about when you learned to read?
My father taught me to read when I was three years old. He wasn't the kind of father who'd lie on the floor and play with a train set or a board game, but was more interested in intellectual activities.
He walked out on the family when I was eight and was, by all accounts, a bit of a swine, but I'll always be grateful for those hours spent reading 'John has a boat. Look at John's boat. John likes his boat.'
I do remember the American version of John and his boat, Fun with Dick and Jane. Although intensely boring, I think I appreciated the spareness of it. The limited verbiage, the tidy lives the children in the book led, both unlike my own upbringing.ReplyDelete
You're so right, Marty. All conflict and family to-do was ironed out of their lives! I certainly don't remember reading 'John steals Mary's doll. Mary belts John round the face with a spinning top. John screams curses at Mary. Mary swears back.' Etc, etc!Delete
I can't imagine a lifetime without reading. I learned when I was three also, but not because I was taught. My parents weren't into reading much, it was something you had to do for school. My older sister is retarded and mum would spend time every day trying to help her read the grade one reader and I learned just by listening and looking at the words and got frustrated with the same old reader day after day. Why couldn't she move on to the next one? I picked up her book and read it to her to show how easy it was. The cat sat on the mat. See spot run. From there I moved to dad's newspaper where I picked out words I knew and once I got to school I read every book in the class bookshelf and had a library card when I was six.ReplyDelete
That's a fascinating story, River, about learning to read almost by proxy. For me, too, the library was a haven as a small child. So many books!Delete
No one even attempted to teach me to read until I was 6 years old and started Grade 1. But I vividly remember learning to read and how to sound out words. I was gobsmacked when the teacher taught us how to read silently! It was like a REVELATION! lolReplyDelete
That's so true. We think reading is compulsorily 'out loud' at first!Delete
I love your poem - it is filled with so many wonderful images. I can't remember learning to read; it was always just there and I'm so grateful for that, as reading is the basis for so many other kinds of learning. But recently my older brother claimed he taught me, so maybe he did!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Jenny. Maybe your older brother is right and did teach you. I imagine it often happens that way. I know my granddaughter (just 4) wants to do 'homework' too when her older brother (5) is doing his.Delete
I am researching my ancestry and came across an obituary for my great grandmother who died at 101 in`1943. It said Sarah went to live with her son two years ago and learnt to read.(AT 99). Which makes the book on her lap in her photo when she was 100 all the more precious.ReplyDelete
Oh, wow! At 99?! I love your story, Patricia.Delete
My first day of school I came home complaining that they hadn't taught me to read yet! Well, so my Mum says, anyhow. In any case it didn't me long to catch up with that, and it was probably the first thing I learned at school. Possibly also the last thing, as after that I was reading.ReplyDelete
I love your first day at school story. When you're 4 or 5, all these things seem so straightforward, and then real life hits :(Delete
When I started school (one room by the way...talk about little house on the prairies) I already knew how to read thanks to a mother who read to me every night and encouraged me to decode the scratches on the paper for myself.ReplyDelete
One room? I'd love to teach in that kind of school! Bless your mother. She passed on a real gift.Delete
Not sure how I learnt to read, I was certainly read to. My niece put a clip on Facebook of her two year old reading out loud to herself, it was so delightful and I could imagine my niece reading to the little girl.ReplyDelete
It was a joy when my two dyslexic children fell in love with reading having struggled at school. They read all the time now to make up for the awful years when on simple reading books when their peers were on the classics !
You warmed my heart with the news that your two dyslexic children fell in love with reading. I am so, so delighted with that.Delete
I have vague memories of learning to read, particularly the teacher's finger as it moved across the page. What a gift teachers give children :) Love, love, love that poem.ReplyDelete
And no doubt your teacher-finger has moved across many a page since :)Delete
Smaller Grandson is unapologetic. "I'm the one that doesn't read" , he says as he sits next to you, clutching a fat library book, and getting comfortable .ReplyDelete
"Oh, why not?"
"Because I like hearing it better."
Now there's a sensible boy!Delete