Learning to Read
A piece I wrote in 1992:
One of my earliest memories, maybe the earliest, is of learning to read. I learned to read all over the house, I’m sure, even out in the world, but the memory takes place in my father’s office, the small middle room upstairs. That room is Jasmine’s bedroom now. When it was Rosy’s room, my parents put up wallpaper with big pink flowers on it, and painted the trim rose pink and olive green. But when it was my father’s office the room, already small, was dark and warm and crowded with every stick of furniture my father could cram in. Bookshelves sat on top of desk on top of bookshelves on top of file cabinets, but there was no clutter: everything was logical, at his fingertips.
It is hard now to imagine how he got it all in—how could he have moved his huge heavy roll-top desk down the narrow hall that is part of the oddly shaped room? But he had managed, and had covered the empty walls with all kinds of pictures: old postcards from foreign-seeming places, his cartoons, Valentines from my mother, family photographs—his family and ours—his children’s drawings. This became the standard style for his workspaces—no matter how large the room, it was packed with furniture, books, and pictures—but this is the first I remember.
In the memory I am kneeling on the ground in front of a small desk. The pool of light from the green-glass lampshaded light on my father’s desk reaches me, as do his presence and his encouragement. I am reading Little Bear stories and Curious George’s Alphabet, thinking it’s funny when Curious George learns how to write and gets ten dozen doughnuts instead of one dozen, as the Man with the Yellow Hat said he should. At some point I graduated to the Little House books, and visions of Christmas in the Big Woods and summer on the prairie began to fill my head. But by then the location had changed: I had moved out of the protective womb of warm green light into the landscapes of my reading.
How did you learn to read? Who taught you? What do you remember about it? Tell us in the comments section below. Thank you for sharing your stories!