Recollections of Learning to Read

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My Recollections of Learning to Read

Reading feels like something that has always been a part of my life. I grew up in Northern California, in a lower middle class household that was trying very hard to provide their children with more than they had the means for. This meant that I never really saw my parents, except weekends, and in the evenings when they would pick me up and my grandparents. Despite this, they did what they could to jump start our intellectual progress. My parents and grandparents encouraged our learning by reading aloud to us from birth- and not just children’s stories, but everything from the newspaper to National Geographic. If anything, this proved to be a mild setback later in the learning process, but I can’t say I begrudge my parents giving me a head start. My earliest memories of “reading”, involve sitting on the couch with my father in our “library”- which was really just a spare room filled with cheap pine bookcases full of every paperback my parents had read in the last decade, and an outdated encyclopedia set purchased at a library sale- looking intently at the photos in the newspaper and trying to decipher how they corresponded to the words in the headline that I couldn’t yet read. My father did little to help me decode these mysteries- if he felt a story was too graphic or disturbing, he was known to substitute words or phrases to transform a story about a robbery turned tragic into a tale about a leprechaun that became lost in a convenience store. By the time I was old enough to read a few words, he was forced to switch to more child friendly reading materials. The library itself became my haven when I was home. It smelled like books, and since most of them had been purchased second hand, this was accompanied by a musty, organic aroma that to this day makes me want to curl up on the couch with a book. The only furnishing was the bookcases that lined every wall, a rickety desk, and a loveseat that had been exiled to the...
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