Monday, May 25, 2009

Memory Monday-- Books, the Gift of Life




As you all know, I am a voracious reader. Always have been; it’s in the blood. As far back as I can remember, books and reading have been a vital part of my life. There was always a book case in my house and I was allowed to read anything that I was able to. Two memories stand out. Walking to the library with my mother and siblings every Saturday and the day I learned to read in one day.

In my kindergarten class at Garfield Elementary school, we were each given a book and told to take it home and have our parents help us learn to read. I think back then, they did not actually teach reading until the first grade. So, I happily presented my schoolteacher mother with the book and we sat down and I learned to read. The next day, the teacher, I have forgotten her name, called each student to sit down beside her desk and read what they had learned. I vaguely remember kids reading slowly or one or two words they recognized. They were encouraged and praised. It was finally my turn and I confidently walked up to the teacher’s desk and sat down. I opened the book and proceeded to read the entire book. I remember the teacher looking at me with her mouth open. She left the room and came back with another teacher, or maybe it was the principal, and they set up a tape recorder and asked me to read some more. That is all I can remember.

When I have told this story, I have always presented it as my learning to read in one day. But, in retrospect, I have long realized that this was not an overnight achievement and I was not some wonder child--- not really.  The foundation of learning to read had been laid for quite some time. I realize that I was slowly learning sounds and recognizing familiar words from all the books I had been “reading” and had read to me by both my mother and father. Every Saturday we walked to the library from our 24th Avenue home. I cannot remember the name of the branch; it is no longer there but it was not far from Garfield School, a couple blocks over from 23rd Avenue. I obtained a library card at three or four years old, when I was able to write my name. I checked out the maximum five books back then and “read” them or had them read to me. The gift of books and reading to your child is the best gift you can give them. It is economically feasible. A library is still free as far as I know, and reading is something that cannot be trampled on, destroyed or lost. It is a gift for life.

I was able to find a picture of a picture from the 50s of the Lakeside branch in Oakland. It is pretty standard from what I remember of the libraries back then.

6 comments:

JC Martin said...

I can't remember when I learned to read. However, I know I had a deep connection with books and it's still there today.

I remember going to the library when the sun was out and not coming out until it was dark. It took me that long to make a choice because I had such a deep connection with those books. I'm certain if I could take them all I would've moved faster and got home faster. But I actually read the first few pages of every book to decide if I wanted to read it further.

Beverly said...

I do not remember my first time reading a book by myself, as reading seems to be as natural to me as breathing. I cannot imagine, not being able to read.

I remembered when going to the library by myself for the first time. It was during the summer and I finished the six books I could take out in two days. I felt so grown-up. But, what I did not know was that my father was following me to the entire time, as he was better had hiding behind the tress than my mother, who I always knew when she was following us.

Niambi Brown Davis said...

To me, reading is like breathing. No matter where I am, no matter how long I think I'll be there, I carry a book. We learned to read in the first grade as well, and with the inheritance of a love for books, reading was my favorite subject. In our town, the library was one of the few places that was not segregated. There was not much to do in the summer, so I would borrow five books, read them in a week, and go back for more. Libraries and books - I love them.

Teresa said...

Most of my library memories center on having a safe place to read, and the librarians who made it possible. My favorite library in Oakland is the Martin Luther King Jr. Library. I remember the scents, sounds, lighting, and smiling faces of the librarians, whom I called “Book Angels,” because they were (and still are) the guardians of books. I remember reading physical science and science fiction books everyday while the “Book Angels” watched over me. While reading books, I observed them unpacking “newly born books,” stamping and re-shelving “mature books,” lovingly repairing “middle aged books,” and retiring “elderly books” to the Free Book cart in the front of the library. To this day, libraries, books, and especially librarians have a special place in my heart.

Dera Williams said...

It seems we all have that deep connection to books. What wonderful comments. Thanks.

Angelia... said...

I was always surrounded by books and readers, my cousins who were four years older had me reading by the time I was four...I can remember starting first grade and reading the whole book when we were told to sound out a page...I was chastised by the teacher (another cousin) for showing off...hmmph...my kids now remember that we spent most Saturdays at the library from the cradle until they were in high school...I love books...

angelia