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.