First Memories of Reading And of Being Read To

I’m trying to wind up my presentation to the librarians at CUNY this Friday, so I thought it might be interesting to write something about reading, because libraries aren’t much use if you can’t read.

I can’t recall my first experience of reading, though I can recall the first evidence that I had learned to read.

My mother once told me that when I was quite young she noticed that I spent a lot of time with books. Since she had never tried to teach me to read, she decided to give me a simple test. So she handed me a copy of one of the Golden Books, very simple stuff, indeed. She may have said it was The Little Engine that Could, the book with “I think I can, I think I can, …”

She said she asked me to read it. And I did. I said, “The Little Engine That Could,” by ” whoever-it-was ‘, and so on down the page.

Then I turned the page.

She expected I would go on to the first page with pictures. But I didn’t. I continued reading,, “This book is copyright, (C), 19.., by Golden Books Company. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized copying … ” and so on, in whatever way the legal warnings were stated back in those days.

She said she then asked me to give her back the book, thus ending the test.

My mother rarely read to me aloud. I do recall her reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped to me when I was in the fourth grade, and she may even have read a bit of David Balfour, though I don’t think she finished it.

However, I do have very vivid memories of being read to aloud, on my very first day in the first grade.

I arrived in the classroom around 11:30, since my mother had just moved to town and so had to register me. As I arrived the teacher was reading a book about a deer and its mother. The deer’s name was Bambi. Soon thereafter we all learned that the mother was dead and many of us cried, including me.

She went on for a bit. Then we had a nice lunch, and after that she gave us some little blankets and we had a short nap.

I decided then and there that school was a neat place. You could have a good cry, a good meal, and a nap, all in just a few hours.

I also decided that books were great fun, too. This is why I am so fond of libraries…and librarians.

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