Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stepping into reading, one word at a time

Do you remember the first time you read a word, free floating, out in the world? I don’t know how old I was, probably four or five, but I remember the moment. Sitting in the backseat of our VW Bug, stopped at a red light, I saw "on" and then "no" on a billboard behind the light. I vaguely remember the words (a plain font, black on white), but what I wholly recall is my lecture to myself. "Remember now," I thought. "You'll never again not see words. These scribbles will always be there to figure out." I thought reading meant I was no longer a child.

Caroline’s day for discovering words outside books came on Sunday. It was the first spring day of the year, and we decided to spend the morning at the zoo. We drove and Caroline spent the ride pointing out all the blue "P" for parking signs that we passed. She collected at least a dozen by the time we arrived - mostly because we had to circle the zoo's neighborhood looking for a parking space in company with all the other Praguers who’d had the same thought when they woke and discovered the sun.

While we circled, and Will listed the practicalities of buses, I decided to distract Caroline from her P quest with a new challenge. If she could find the word "zoo" I’d give her a piece of her favorite Hubba Bubba*. Caroline rarely forgets conversations that involve chewing gum and sure enough, halfway through the kilometer hike from parking lot to wild animals, she found ZOO - and then again and then again. We traded a lot of high fives that day and I told her I'd make a picture for her to remember her first big step into reading in the wild. See above.

* Czechs, and Caroline, pronounce Hubba Bubba "hoobah boobah", to my delight. Just a note in case you're looking for some on your next trip to Prague.


Anonymous said...

what a great post! I can't remember not reading...I think I've ALWAYS been reading :)

Tommy Williams said...

There certainly was a time when I couldn't read but I don't remember it. And I don't have any memory of a difference between reading in books or reading signs.

Dawn likes to say, implying some great disability: "I was born functionally illiterate and it took years to get over it."

Julia said...

I had a habit when I was a kid of marking turning points like that in my head. I still do it too, but it is easier now that I can write ;-).