How did I learn to read? I think the title of this blog post pretty much says it all. When I was a child, I hated learning to read. The combinations of all those different letters would just swirl around in my mind until I grew dizzy from the effort of trying to make sense of them. Sure, preschool was easy. You were only expected to know the first letter of your name and you could just improvise with finger-painting for the rest. Kindergarten, though, that was the big league. That was where you learned just what those letters meant when jumbled together. And I was none too happy about being forced to learn that.
Growing up, I had always been fond of stories. I was five, though, I had it easy. My parents would read books to me while I sat on their laps and stared at the pictures. If there was ever a word that flashed across the television screen, I could just ask my older brother to read it for me. Even when I grew older and wanted to create stories of my own, I would simply dictate them to my mother and then illustrate them myself. I did not see the need to learn how to read when I could get other people to do it for me. Why ruin a good thing?
In kindergarten class, I dutifully learned how to shape my letters along with my peers. Yet, my parents wanted me to do something more. Every night before I went to sleep, my father would summon me to over to him. “Read with me,” he would say, but what he really meant was “Read for me,” which had been my mantra up until then. All my life, I had been demanding that others read for me. I had wanted the information that these letters unlocked, but did not want to put in any effort to uncover this information myself. My father just ignored my whining. He made me read every night, helping me to sound out the words when I was too frustrated to continue. I am not really sure when those nightly reading sessions became less of a chore and more of a joy. But now seventeen years later, looking at my waist-high stack of books to be read, I think this is one instance where I can say that my father was right.