- Books, Literature, and Writing
What was Your First Book?
Reading is a big step!
Learning to read any language is a long process that begins with learning to speak, continues through learning how stories are constructed, how their language is constructed using an alphabet and phonetics until at some point it all "CLICKS" and the child (or adult in some cases) actually reads the words on a page in a book and realizes they have grasped the written word.
Often times this book is one the child has been "reading" for some time as their caregiver sits with them and reads the book to them. They memorize the story as the pages of pictures flow by and they point and interact within the story.
Now, for me there is one particular book that I distinctly remember this happening. I do not know for sure what age I was, likely between 3 and 4 years old. That is a guess but this memory is one of the earliest in my mind.
The reason I am writing this article is that just today I saw the cover of this book at work. You see, I am a librarian now and work at a busy public library in the Southeastern United States, Florida to be precise. When I saw this book on a cart, ready to be taken out and re-shelved, I grabbed it and told a coworker this story.
In my situation I learned to read at a young age as my Mother had been reading to me from the beginning. My Dad did not read to me but soon he was teaching me things I feel are just as important. How to use tools and how to fix all kinds of mechanical and electronic devices. Understanding devices is just as important a skill in today's world as reading, so "Thanks Mom & Dad!"
Anyway, let me tell you what happened as I described the event to my colleague.
"I Can Read!"
Most libraries are departmentalized because differing tasks are handled in different areas. The area I work in, the Reference Department, is located near the back of the library and I need to occasionally go to the Circulation Department (or CIRC) which is where the books (LOTS of them) are going in and out. The staff puts them onto carts separated by which area of the library they live on a shelf. There are lots of book carts crammed into the CIRC Department and there are paths you go through to get around back there. This is NOT where the public is allowed!
I walked through the door into the CIRC workroom an I had to walk by a young lady sitting on a stool to my left. She was checking in new books and is frequently there as this is a big part of her job. She is in her early 20's. I slip between her and a the central hub of book carts and I suddenly see the first book I could read myself sitting on the top of the Children's Beginning Reader cart. It must have just came in.
I grabbed the book and turned around to the young lady on the stool and said. "Mary, this is the first book I could read all by myself!"
Now I have two daughters, each slightly older than Mary, but she said. "Aww, that's so cute!"
I proceeded to tell her that one of my earliest memories is sitting down to read this book. It was my favorite because I had memorized the story from my mother reading it to me many times. But THIS TIME was different!
My Story Continues . . .
My memory of this event has always been very clear in my mind. I took my book and sat down on the floor of the living room. I opened my book as I had done many times, ready to replay the memorized story as I turned the pages. As I looked at the first words I stopped. I realized that I understood the letters and how the word was constructed and how they sounded together to form the word.
"I CAN READ!" I said but I was alone at the time so my parents missed the big moment. I tried the next word and it worked again! I stopped and a thought came to my mind.
"If I can read this, I can read anything!"
Mary thought this was pretty funny, imagining me, a "pre-geezer" of today as a little boy reading this book and again she said "Aww, that's so cute!"
And here it is! Go, Dog. Go!
I bet you have heard of this one, it's a classic beginning reader from 1961 by P. D. Eastman. Notice how it is part of a series called "I can read all by myself" books. Gee, funny how that works!
My other Favorite book
I then told Mary about my other favorite book from my childhood, A Fish out of Water by Helen Palmer, also from 1961. I described the basic plot, boy gets fish at pet store from Mr. Carp. Mr. Carp tells the boy to feed the fish "just a pinch" or "something may happen."
Ok, so you KNOW what the boy does, right? He feeds the fish a pinch but the poor fish looks so hungry the boy feeds him more, and more until the little boy dumps the whole box of fish food into the bowl, and then (of course),
I SOOO want to tell all of you the story like I told it to Mary but you will have to get your own and find out!
You will enjoy it more, trust me. I also told Mary that I have always thought that if I were extremely wealthy I would make a movie based on A Fish out of Water.
Starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Carp, by the way.
Now if you are thinking I am spending too much time gabbing with other employees, this whole thing took only about three minutes. Mary had a lot of books to check in and I had things to do as well.
Bob's Books Smackdown!
Which of Bob's Favorite Childhood Books you YOU like better?
Ideas for Parents
So, as a parent, what are some activities we can do that will encourage children of any age to learn to read and to increase their reading skill as they grow? Here are some my wife and I used to help our two daughters become great readers.
1) Start Early! Now, when I say early, I do mean EARLY. In the Womb early! Both my wife and I regularly read to our daughters while in the womb. It is a great way for them to bond with the voices of both parents and I firmly believe that the baby picks up on language patterns.
2) Keep reading to them after they are born! Both of you, and other caregivers, will be holding and talking to the infant instantly anyway so why not include books? The earlier the newborn sees someone holding a book as they read the sooner the concept of books and reading will take hold.
3) Get them books of their own! Books come in many formats including light weight cloth or plastic and now digital formats of course. Tell your relatives and friends when they ask "What do you need?" to include infant books some times. Even if they pick one for an older child you can put it aside for later.
4) Get them a Library Card! Most Library Systems will let parents get a child of any age their own card so why not do it now? You do have YOUR Library Card, don't you???
5) Engage then in "environmental reading" as they grow! Words are all around us from signs to package labels. Teaching children to read food labels gets them two benefits, figuring out words phonetically and learning about nutrition! When they get old enough to type, show them a real computer with a keyboard (not just a tablet) and get them started on understanding that software are tools for modern life.
This Book is FULL of Ideas!
Can't think of a plan to help your child learn to read? How about 100 lessons!
She's reading earlier than I did!
What was your first book?
Think back to when you were a child and you discovered the magic of books and reading. The stories took you to places you had never thought of and let you meet all different kinds of people and characters.
Tell us about your earliest book memories and how it shaped your life. My love of books and being an early reader lead me eventually to become a Public Librarian. Along the way I helped many people make the most of their computers and computer networks. I bet many of you "early readers" ended up helping people too! Tell us about the type of work you do and how reading at an early age helped you understand how to help others learn new things.