The Adventure of Reading
I think I remember when I discovered the magic of reading.
You know - I couldn't read a single word before I began my formal education in the First Grade at what would later be renamed the Flint Elementary School.
My children and my grand children could all read and write long before they entered First Grade. That's the way to do it! Why would you teach them to walk and talk and feed themselves - and NOT teach them to READ?!
Mrs. Ryan introduced me to the world of Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff and Spot. But didn't sell me on reading as an adventure, as a portal, as an escape.
The true Blue Pill AND Red Pill possibility had not be offered.
No, reading began as a thing to be feared. School work. Pressure to succeed, avoid embarrassment, achieve, accomplish, pass the test, make the grade. I think that for many people this is a far as they get. The had to read in school - and now they don't - so, they don't.
Letters to be learned, an alphabet to be memorized (and sung), a vocabulary to be built, grammar to be realized and applied.
Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, sentence structure.
The mechanics of reading and writing, yes - but not the magic.
The Graves family showed me the magic of reading.
Bill Graves joined our First Grade class at Flint in 1962. I didn't know or understand at the time, but his Mother, Dixie Graves, would be our teacher in Second Grade --- and Bill would become a lifelong friend.
In Second Grade, our teacher did not just drill us with letters and words (a necessity, of course -- not a failing of Mrs. Ryan). She read to us.
We had story time right after lunch every day.
We never reclined on mats or pads or towels and napped. We went on adventures that spanned days and weeks. We sat at our desks in rapt attention to hear what would happen next in the story that was unfolding before us. We were transported.
I was transfixed.
That was a beginning, but I was sold in another way.
Bill invited me to ask my Mom if I could come and spend an afternoon at his house after school. I had never been to a Teacher's house before, and I feared an extension of school and class. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they have very normal, unschool-like home lives.
Here are the things (time with Bill was fun, too, but -): My very first French Toast, Bill's Dad bred exotic birds in an aviary behind their house, we could walk down to the end of the street where Bill lived and watch movies over the fence at the Hartselle Drive In Theater - and Bill's brother had a collection of Hardy Boys Mystery Books.
The Hardy Boys mysteries were a hardback, yet inexpensive, collection of books for adolescents written by Franklin W. Dixon.
I had never heard of them.
As a matter of fact, I don't think that I had ever read a book before.
I had read in class - but who read at home or out of school?!
I never met Bill's brother, but Bill showed me his collection of books. Mrs. Graves said that I could take one of the books home with me and read it if I would take good care of it and return it when I was finished.
I felt that it would be impolite to decline - and I have always had a mind and heart open to new experiences. So, I picked out a volume and took it home to read. (I don't remember what my first volume was - but eventually I read them all, and collected them for my own library).
My life was changed forever!
I no longer was just a boy who could read - I was someone who was a READER, and I would be for the rest of my life.
Reading made me an above average student and learner, it would lead to good grades and academic awards - to achievement and graduation - to learning ----- pleasure and adventure!
I found that I could learn to do ANYTHING by reading about it.
I could become anything that I wanted to be.
I could learn to perform magic and sleight of hand, I could play any instrument that I wanted to pick up, I could master any job or any task - if there was a book or a manual or instructions - the door was open.
And now I write books for others to read.
Reading educates me, informs me, builds me, inspires me, challenges me, entertains me, and changes me.
The Bible is the most important book that I have ever read, and I read it still, every day. I study it and share what I learn from others.
I have read the holy books of almost every world religion. The wisdom of the ages - of human history - of eternity. I read history, biography, science, biology, theology, fantasy, fiction, and science fiction. I read news, magazines, blogs, and posts.
I am a READER - and the story, the joy, the power, the adventure - is never ending.
Thank you, Mrs. Graves! Thanks, Bill.
May I leave you with some of the most important advice that I could ever give to anyone?