Learning to Read

I was an early reader. A flexible kindergarten teacher pulled a group of parents aside and said, “It’s not on the curriculum until next year, but these kids are ready to go now,” and five of us started staying after school for a private tutorial in how to unlock the philosopher’s stone.

Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka Bake a Cake
Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka Bake a Cake

And we were ready. We interrupted each other to read out loud. We laughed as we decoded the only just barely post Dick and Jane literature. I read everything I could see, usually out loud—in the car, my parents would finally ask me to be quiet after miles of “no parking any time” signs read out loud.

We moved to another town, and in this house I could walk to school. I walked home for lunch along a particular route so I could read—books now, not street signs—while I walked. Our next-door neighbor was my school librarian’s mother, and after reports about my school habits, she loaned me books from her attic. My parents started making rules that I thought were anti-intellectual: no reading at the table, no reading after bedtime. My mother learned that she could not just look down the hall and see if my light was on; she had to come in my room and see if the bulb was still warm—I had figured out that I had plenty of time when I heard her on the stairs to flick off the light and get the book under the covers long before she could see me.

Now I have kids, and my parents are probably thinking, “Back atcha.” I’ve chanted my mantra down many a city block (“Why yes, that one says ‘One way do not enter,’ too”). The kids got bedside reading lamps for Christmas one year, thus ending my control over lights out. So far reading at the table hasn’t been an issue—I think they’re too hungry to do anything but eat—but books are sneaked along on just about any other activity. The kid who gets carsick pushes it to the point of nausea; they both whine when I tell them it’s time to leave the library.

But I’m willing to put up with some late nights and vague conversations, for now I have fellow readers in the house. I’ve gotten to introduce them to some of my best literary friends and they’ve returned the gesture. We help each other scour the house for the overdue books. And now they’re brainstorming with me about characters and plot. Mmmmm—we’re building a wordsmith factory.


Published by annmariegamble

Ann Marie Gamble has been putting pen to paper since her mom made her scrub the crayon off the stairwell walls (one chapter per step). Although there is plenty of inspiration to be had in the carpool lane, she likes writing her way across the galaxy as well as across town, and she especially enjoys research missions (aka family vacations) when she and the boys can get away. Her favorite place to write is a room with a view and a pot of tea.

6 thoughts on “Learning to Read

  1. I like your blog; interesting and it looks good too. I checked out the writing spaces. I’ve been working on mine. I’d rather work on it than write. I painted a wall orange and added some strange ceramic things. I’m waiting for inspiration. You might enjoy Jennifer Bryce’s “Unlearning to Fly”–she talks of her obsessive reading as a child.


    1. Sometimes the decorating feels like a stall tactic to me, but ya gotta have yer inspiration! And a lot of the home repair disasters make it into my writing somehow, so that time is doing double duty.

  2. I LOVE this post. I just love to see kids reading in any capacity. When I hit a certain age, my mom always let us read whatever we wanted–if we could get our hands on it, we could read it. Talk about a gutsy thing! It really made me know that she trusted me but also that reading was good. Of course, I did sneak a few romance novels in when I was a teenager. But I feel like her giving me that gift of uncensored reading did a lot for who I am today.

    1. Likewise, my parents didn’t censor what I read, for which they get a big thank you. It’s a safe way to find out about things — now you don’t have to try them in real life. 😉

      At one point, I thought I would read along with my kids — I like J and YA fiction, and I could see what they found interesting. There’s no way I could keep up, though, and hold down a job. Now I realize that this is another way a kid becomes independent — more thoughts and experiences that their parent isn’t having.

  3. Your experiences sound so much like mine. My dad would come in my room about 1 am and suggest i go to bed, but as long as I got up the next morning with no trouble (hard for a non-morning person LOL), they let me stay up and read. Hubby and I have done the same with ours and they are all avid readers. Even the one that didn’t really “crack the code” til he was 9. (Thank heavens for homeschooling!) It is sooo much fun to share my old favorites and discover theirs.

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