Monday, July 12, 2010

A Little Pep Talk

I was nine years old before I learned to read. No really. Nine years old. My mom spent hours trying to help me sound out words and fill my head with sight word flash cards but it was all in vain. I recognized some words. If I worked hard enough I could figure others out but it wasn't reading. It was a pain inflicted on me before I was allowed to go outside and play on the swing and had almost no connection to the real stories my mom read to me later in the day.
Then something awful happened. My mom stopped reading to me.
I had always loved stories, beginning with Curious George and the Bernstein Bears and moving on to the American Girl series and Secret Garden but the mystical art of deciphering them was lost to me. I don't know if my mom figured out that I would never read on my own if she kept reading aloud or if she just didn't have as much time but suddenly I was surounded by books and I couldn't get past the covers. They teased me with their titles and beconed me with their illistrations and I wanted nothing more than to crawl inside and see what was there
But I couldn't read. This was a fact. An unpleasant one but a fact. I had tried. I had failed. Over and over. Every atempt had been excrusiating. I could not read.
One day I decided to try anyways. Might as well. Woudln't hurt anything. I picked up On the Banks of Plumb Creek and read the first chapter. Then the second chapter. Wait! How was this happening? I couldn't read. But suddenly all the little pieces and rules I'd been agonizing over fell into place and I sailed through my first novel. When I was finished I read Mary Poppins and the Oz books and Alice and Wonderland (you can see the fantasy bug bit me early on), volumes of folk tales and (to my shame) the Babysitter's Clum books.
I don't think I need to emphasize that reading as since become an ireplacable part in my life. I read. A lot. Its not dificult. But I can still remember that feeling of imposibility, like a chasm between me and those pages that I was never going to cross. I had tried and failed too many times already. If there had ever been any posibility I would suceed I would have learned years ago with all the other second graders. But the barier was only in my head. I just had to be patient and try again. Its a silly little story but most things seem sillier and smaller in retrospect. At the time it was catastrophic.

So what can't you do? What have you already tried too many times?


  1. The correct answer is nothing, right?

    There's nothing I can't do.

    But you're right some things seem impossible before we actually put our minds to it and make the attempt.

    Great reminder. :)

  2. That is apsolutely the correct answer Karen. :D In as much as any question can have only one right answer.