"Tell me what it says, under this picture." The little girl struggled with a copy of Life magazine. She smoothed out the page on the visitor's lap. "Can you read it to me?"
The black and white photos in this oversize publication opened strange windows for the child. Full-page scenes of an earthquake in Japan, a yawning crevice across a highway included, filled her with fear. Other pictures made her wonder. She recognized uniforms because of an uncle and cousins in the war. But photographs alone didn't tell her enough. She knew something more hid in the caption below the picture.
Oh, how she longed to be able to read like the grownups!
And, how frustrated she felt when the visitor looked at the photo on his lap and replied to her question, "This is something that isn't good for little girls to know."
How else would she understand that great mystery of life beckoning to her, if she couldn't read and nobody would tell her what those fascinating words said!
Daddy always read bedtime stories to the children after he and Mama tucked them into bed and before their prayers. She heard about Pandora's Box and about Reynard The Fox and pondered the lessons they contained. She listened to tales from Norse mythology about Thor, the thunder god with his big hammer. It was funny to hear stories about him, because her own grandpa's name was "Thor." And, she treasured stories from the Bible, which she understood were not the same as the fiction in the other books from Daddy's library. Those were just pretend, but God's stories really happened.
Someday, and it couldn't come too soon for this girl, she would be old enough to go to school and learn how to read. Then, she would explore all the books in her father's tremendous library. She knew she would find wondrous stories hidden under those covers. And, nobody would tell her this time that it wasn't good for little girls to know. She longed for the day when she could read everything for herself.
In due season, the child could sit down beside Grandma and open her Dick and Jane book. Grandma paid very good attention and told her she had done a fine job reading. Whenever our girl found a new word, her Mama would tell her "Sound it out!" (That was something Mama, who had been a first grade teacher, called "phonics.")
One day in school, Dorrie sat with her class at the child-size table in the back of the room. While the children in the higher grades worked on assignments, Miss Emery used flash cards with words on them. Since our girl Dorrie had her hand up with every card, the teacher deliberately called on somebody else. Then, Teacher pulled out a card with a new word. Dorrie had never seen it before, but as her Mama instructed, she sounded it out in her head. She was pretty sure she had correctly translated the letters she saw. But, she hesitated just enough before shooting up her hand. Apparently, that gave Miss Emery hope this pupil didn't know everything at first-grade level, yet.
Teacher nodded in her direction. "Dorrie!"
"Pur-ple?" Dorrie replied, carefully. Miss Emery's face fell. This kid had picked up enough phonics that she no longer needed the teacher's help. I suspect she, also, secretly faulted Mama for giving me a head start the rest of the class didn't enjoy.
Yes, I was that child, the one who yearned to possess the skill of reading. Ever since I learned how to do it, I have been a voracious, even gluttonous, reader. My head is so full, by now, it has to overflow before I can squeeze any more into my brain.
And so, because of hearing and reading much over the years, the words fill my head and tumble out, again, as new stories. Even when I cannot claim credit as author, my heart's desire constrains me to offer others something interesting, inspiring, and informational to read.
But, when I hear someone say that they hate to read, I can only marvel with dismay. Somehow, they must have missed seeing those intriguing photos, or hearing the stories that drove me crazy wanting to know more. Finding the rest of the story for myself gives me great satisfaction. My curiosity has been amply rewarded through this gift.
If only the folks who hate to read knew how much they are missing!
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