I’ve always been a reader. My family read to me, and they made sure I had lots of books. As a kid, a trip to the mall wasn’t complete unless I stopped by Brentano’s bookstore. My uncle used to get tired of me browsing so long sometimes.My school library was my hangout when not in class. Public libraries came later in my first year of high school, although I did have some visits to a few branches as a young child.
There was no “light bulb moment” when I realized I could read; it was just natural that the black marks on the pages made sense, and I had fun. However, sometimes my pronunciation left a lot to be desired. I remember being required in school not to follow the lines with my index finger. I had to use an index card so my eyes wouldn’t wander. I hated the index card! I wish they had reading dog programs in school back then. I would have loved that.
My grandmother only went as far as the first grade in school, so she never learned how to read or write well. She was one of the smartest people I know. For years I kept the birthday and other cards she’d give me, especially valuing the ones with her own in her own printed name, with x’s and o’s for hugs and kisses. She did not like her writing, but it was hers.
Many times, she would read to me, slowly sounding the words out. As much as I loved the stories about animals, it was the sound of her voice that meant the most. We would sit on the living room couch under the reading lamp. When I grew older, I would help her read the paper and the mail. Any time she got stuck, I would help with the new word. At various times, she expressed concern that I would get wall=eyed (her word for nearsighted) from so much reading. I am nearsighted, but that’s okay.
Since high school, I have wanted to be a literacy tutor, but have never felt I was a good teacher. So I have yet to do that. When I saw this “On the Road with Steve Hartman” on CBS News Sunday Morning a while back I was very moved. And it brought so much back to me.,