Sunday, 7 March 2010


When I was four I discovered black marks at the bottom of the pictures in my books. I ran my finger over them in fascination because they were different lengths. When my sister read to me I noticed she ran her finger along them too. I have no idea how or why the black marks resolved themselves into words, but they did. I know the first work I read started with letter "s" something about its shape and sound just clicked and, because I have a warm feeling when I think of it, I bet that word was "sun".

I began to recognise lots of whole words - they were everywhere. I found my words in magazines, comics and the newspapers that lay on the coffee table. I hunted for them to see if I could find them on different pages. Then I noticed I could find them outside the house too. Everywhere. It was amazing: shapes had meanings - who'd have thought?

Of course, I didn't know what I was doing was wrong. My first teacher set me right on this when I started school. She called my parents in at the end of my first week and explained they had done a very bad thing (I remember how confused, and annoyed, they were. They hadn't known I could read. Why would I tell them? Couldn't everyone?) So, my first memories of school: Gerald crying all day, the boy who wouldn't take off the coat he had fastened up to his chin and that reading was bad.

My first teacher laid the perfect foundation to create a truly obsessive reader: she made reading a subversive activity.

My parents told me not to read when she could see! Illicitly, I would sneak off to the Book Corner, having first checked she was engrossed somewhere else. Then I would become immersed in alternate realities that were all the more thrilling because I wasn't supposed to be in them. Dissident status at age 5; I read.

Things never really got much better. Wherever I was:
  • getting dressed for school

  • on the bus

  • walking through the streets

  • at meals

  • on family holidays

  • instead of homework

  • as an alternative to sleep

I was reading.

In lots of photos, I was the family member with the rectangular head.

I don't like reading, I love it.

All thanks to Mrs Jensen who banned me from reading.

I was wondering: do you love reading?


  1. Love, love, love reading :)

    I wish I had a memory like yours! I don't remember learning to read, just remember hiding under the covers with my flashlight and my books :)

  2. I love reading. Didn't as a child though funnily enough. Can't get enough of books these days. Think I've made up for lost time.

    Great post :)

  3. Hi Jemi and Wendy
    Two more to add to the "We love books" fanclub!
    My flashlight stage came a lot later because my brothers stole my batteries for all the-things-electrical that lit up their world.
    I have a photo of me reading my school "reading book" upside down - backwards.
    Those simple picture-book stories with their limited vocabulary painted pictures but I remember them as thin images like reflections in puddles."Real books" made my head feel like it was inside a ballon filled with the alternate reality - boy in bubble style!

  4. I could read by the time I entered kindergarten, simple primers, See Spot. See Spot run. I, too, had my nose in a book throughout childhood, they were so much more interesting than people I knew. I'm trying to teach my daughter to read but she's resisting. I keep telling her she'll love it, but...

  5. I read a lot when I was young, thanks to the encouragement of my mom. Then through high school and college when it was required, it was such a pain! Now I am addicted to reading. Always carry a book around with me. I go through about five novels a month.

  6. I had a similar experience, Elaine. I knew how to read when I entered school, and I thought everybody could. So when reading books were passed out--beginning with me, because my name began with "A"--I plunged into mine and by the time the kids at the end of the alphabet had theirs, I'd finished it. I raised my hand and asked for another. The teacher was so furious that for the whole first semester, when the other kids learned reading, I had to sit in the corner and stare at the wall. Of course I just made up stories in my head. Usually about school teachers meeting a terrible demise.

  7. Wow! What a story. But, out of curiosity, why did your teacher now want you to read?

  8. Anne - that was exactly what my teacher did to me too. She also took every opportunity to "punish" me for inconveniencing her lessons. Taking away a sticker star from my chart because I couldn't roll my tongue and make her "r-r-r" sound was her lowest point.
    Hi Carolina
    Having one child who was so much more advanced in one area of English meant, theoretically, she had to plan alternate work of me or know I would finish her work in less than the time it took her to hand it all out.
    (She should have given me more punctuation lessons!)
    Piedmont Anne
    I have ideas on the reading thing - be right over!

  9. I can't believe your teacher didn't want you to read! How bizarre. Huh. Anyway, yeah, I love reading too! And I don't even remember learning how to do it, so you're way ahead of me there.

  10. I didn't read that much in school. But I can't imagine anyone discouraging a child.

    My daughter has a teacher who is VERY big on reading and book reports, as a result my daughter loves books now.

  11. Reading is my drug. Even before I could read, I loved being read to. Books were - and still are - a source of fun, pleasure, entertainment and learning. I assume your teacher didn't want you to read because she thought it was distracting you from class?

    PS: When you have an opportunity, I have a little something for you over on my blog. :)