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HOW I LEARNED TO READ

Adult Entry Winner

Vivian Andree-Lambertson

 

            There is a photograph of me in the family archives – I am about a year old, have my fine, little kid hair pulled up on top of my head into a “pineapple”, and I’m sitting in a cardboard box in the kitchen reading a book with an intense expression on my face.  Upon closer inspection, the book is actually upside down, but it suffices to say that I have had books in my lap as long as I can remember.

 

            No big surprise, I come from a completely book-obsessed family – I cannot remember either of my parents without their noses in a book, with our without the t.v. on, a question asked by anyone was followed by a long pause, a finger placed carefully upon the word they were leaving behind, and a “I’m sorry, what did you want?” as a reply.  So perhaps reading was a way of joining the group, finding out what all the fuss was about.  Perhaps it was just self-preservation.

 

            The book I actually remember learning to read with was “Go, Dog, Go” by, you guessed it, Dr. Seuss.  I wonder how many children can credit that man for sparking that light that continues glowing from each book they open.

 

            My mother read to me every night (I’m sure that’s something else the majority of us book readers are lucky enough to have in common) and that book was one of my favorites.  I actually still have it.  I was fascinated with the  fact that dogs could congregate in trees and wore hats and in fact, that book is also responsible for my love and admiration for both dogs and tree-houses, too.  I do like hats, too.  The point I’m trying to make, however, is one magical day after hearing that book read to me for the forty-eleventh time, my mother tells me I was barely four years old, I do remember something just clocking in my brain and suddenly the sounds that the words stood for connected with what the shapes were on the page, and the shapes could sing !  It wasn’t long at all until I figured out what all the other shapes were, and I have been reading like a fiend ever since.

 

            I was a grown up and quite proud of myself when, on my seventh birthday, as my mother had promises, we took the family station wagon down to the Burlington Fletcher Free Library in Vermont.  At that time (late 1970s), it was located in the basement of the Memorial Auditorium.  Now it’s lucky enough to have its own three-story elevator’ed building all of its own.  I remember it was a hot summer day, as late August usually is in Vermont, and the inside of the library was dark and cool, and the linoleum floors were shiny and loud as I walked toward the back of the stacks with my mother to where the “Children’s Section” was.  I do remember questioning why I had to pick from just that section, and I couldn’t wait until I could go to the adult books, too.  I was an adult, after all, because I could read !!  I got to pick out some books of my very own from the section my mother told me I could (the detail of what they were do escape me, although I wonder if my mother would remember), I brought them back down the long hall to the counter in the front, and I informed the librarian that it was my birthday, I was here for a card, and to borrow these books, please.  They were very kind, treated me with utmost respect (and most likely a twinkle in their eye) and to this day, many of the same people still work at the library, are great friends to my mother, and always had a kid word for me as I grew up through middle school, high school and college when I was home for the summer.  That alone was appreciated during some of the lonely and misunderstood times an adolescent goes through.  I felt like a nerd, but a loved one.

 

            Books were constant companions to me when I was growing up – each of us children had a box of their own entirely dedicated to books when we went camping every summer.  I would go through at least two books a day, often reading until the light of dawn was threatening to leap above the horizon.  I loved that best about the summer time – that sense of a time free-for-all, no rules about how late one could stay up as long as it was because you were up late reading (this was in high school; my parents were actually quite strict about bedtimes during my childhood, but it didn’t keep me from reading under the covers with my flashlight though).

 

            I’ve always been a fast reader, great comprehension.  I feel compelled to share that, especially when some people are hostile to the fact that you don’t struggle through books and actually adore reading.  I used to read while walking to and from school or class, keeping an eye on when I needed to cross a road or get past groups of people, or in later years, when I had to take a b us to school.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a very sociable girl with great communication skills, but books were also fantastic friends to me whenever I was starting a new job and didn’t want to have to work during my lunch – people still respect when someone has their nose in a book and a faraway look in their eye. And even now, my first role of order whenever moving to a new town is to get thyself to a library post haste, because a book will have the key to whatever hope or dream you wish to encourage or fear you wish to beat a hasty retreat.  I’ve always experienced a great synchronicity with what I really need to learn and what books I’m lucky enough to find in the library.  Fiction, non-fiction, auto- and biographies, bring them all on.  I never feel more hopeful about life than when I have a whole stack of unread books to dive into.  It gives me a sense of immortality.

 

            I may have learned to read to fit in, but not I find I read to survive.

 

 


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