I was reading a couple days ago, as I do from time to time, and I came across yet another post by Bre that got me thinking. She was (oddly enough) talking about a post she had read on Romancing the Blog that had centered around the question “what got you started reading.” Interesting question, I think i’ll run with it.
Besides, I feel the need to type this morning so you fine folks get stuck with reading about me reading. It’s kind of like reading the instruction manual for a video game about golf. Come to think of it, I am certain that reading a book about a computer simulation of an outdoor activity that for me is more an excuse to drink than a competitive sport would be more entertaining.
I would put today’s post somewhere between looking for odd names in the phone book and deciphering the instructions that came with my new alarm clock. Apparently those were written by someone that speaks Klingon as their native tongue. Then again, it might amuse a few people.
My introduction to reading came pretty early, at least I like to think so. Up until about age 12 or 13 I had no real drive to read. I would skim books for book reports and that is about it. Then along came a teacher with an idea that really clicked with me. She did the reading, later so did I.
On the first day of the final quarter we came in after a nice relaxing weekend to find Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time sitting fresh and new on each and every desk. Next to each book was a handmade blue bookmark with a braid of thin white yarn coming from the top. Each and every one had an inscription in calligraphy, all done by hand, all different.
Mine said “Performance is the question, Excellence is the answer.” For many years it was the only one I would use. Sadly, tattered and worn, many times repaired, it was lost in a fire many years ago. I suppose in a way I still have it though, I carry it in my mind.
Sitting quietly at her desk the English teacher waited till we were all settled in, and then began to describe her plan for the rest of the year. The book before us was to be our textbook, and was ours to keep when the class was through. She laughed as she called them our “graduation presents.”
So began one of the most interesting quarters I have ever had in an English class. On Monday the teacher would read aloud to the class from her copy. Entranced, we listened in silence as we followed along in our own. A class full of 5th graders and for an hour you could have heard a pin drop.
Throughout the week we would discuss portions of the story, doing all the regular things that the class required. Breaking down sentences, memorizing the spelling of words, describing what we had learned from the different sections. All of it was centered around that book.
Friday would come a test. It would wrap up everything we had read, talked about, and studied, for the whole week.
The only time she ever gave homework was on Friday, and it was always to tell us how far we would be reading on Monday. That way you could read ahead in your own copy at home. I started reading to get ahead in class, more studying than anything. The more I got used to it, the more I liked it.
Through talking with that English teacher I also learned about the Choose your own adventure series. I promptly fell in love with them. Right before the school year was over and I was about to leave for summer vacation (and move to another state) she handed me a book wrapped in brown paper. She told me to save it for a rainy day during the summer, and then enjoy it.
I opened it up as we pulled out of town, away from everything I knew, to move to Florida. It was the first book in the Hardy Boys series. By the time we had made the trip from North Dakota to Florida the blue bookmark had made its way steadily through to the end.
I found myself craving more.
I still do.