I was recently having a conversation with a friend where he told me that he learned to read when he was about 3 years old. Even though I love books and reading, I was never that kid. My parents read to us quite a bit before I learned to decipher all the words on the page, but I do not remember being able to read before being taught in kindergarten.
It was clear from my early days in kindergarten that school was a place where I would be able to unlock all kinds of mysteries, and learning to decipher the letters on a page was perhaps the most amazing mystery of all. My guide through this brave new world was Mrs. Oliveras, a woman who was equally adept at playing guitar and unlocking the magic of reading.
On the day I first began my lifelong love affair with the printed word, Mrs. Oliveras took a few students at a time up into our classroom’s loft. We sat in a small circle around her, and I remember staring longingly at the pink stacks of paper held together by brads that she had in her hands. As soon as we were settled, she passed one out to each of us. On the front was a stick figure version of a cat. I would soon learn that this was Nat the cat.
Mrs. Oliveras worked slowly through each word and had us sounding them out until I was able to read my first sentence:
Nat the cat sat on a mat.
And with those seven words, I knew I had discovered something magical. With this simple sentence, I realized that something I could only experience through an adult reading to me could be done on my own.
If you regularly read this blog, you know where my love of reading has led. Even though I have moved far beyond Nat the cat and his mat-sitting adventures, I still remember that feeling of falling in love with reading. It comes to me when I find myself lost in a good book or staying up late to finish just one more page. It comes in the beauty of a well crafted first line.
One of my favorite books from childhood is Go, Dog. Go! I think this book became my favorite before I could read. To this day, I consider it one of the best books written on the subject of dogs driving, holding parties in trees and wearing funny hats. Like the adventures of Nat, the book took me to new places.
When did you first learn to love reading? What books were your childhood favorites?