I was always a good reader. In fact, perhaps a better word would be excellent, voracious, or perhaps -- a lapper?
I lapped up written text. I desired it. I wanted it. I wallowed in it.
By the time I went to kindergarten in 1959, I was a sight recognition reader.
In first and second grades, the teachers placed us in reading groups, a placement I recognized as dealing with skill, but perhaps not in a competitive or even a point and laugh way. Reading groups were part of the curriculum of the time, and the philosophy was that good readers were with good readers and poor readers were with poor readers.
Teachers also encouraged students to read aloud [a practice that has some how gone by the wayside], and if a fellow student struggled with the pronunciation of words, I tended to lean forward or backwards or side ways to whisper the word for him to help him, move him along, or just out of sheer impatience. I’m not suggesting that I was altruistic, but perhaps, over skilled?
The whole family loved to read. At breakfast, we read the back of the cereal boxes -- and we read them over and over and over, the same text; it just didn’t matter.
On Saturdays and Sundays, we fought for the newspaper comics -- Pogo, Andy Capp, Brenda Starr, Dick Tracy, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, the pipe smokin' guy? ; we read series The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and any magazine that my daddy subscribed to -- Life, Newsweek, Look, Harpers’s, Atlantic Monthly …..and when visiting our aunts in Virginia, we devoured their Reader’s Digest.
Words. We ate them.
I don’t know what grade I was in when I received my first literature text...
But when I did --
I’d take that book home, flip through the pages of short stories, poems, plays, myths, fables, or whatever was there, and happily and nerdily read them. Yep. I’d read as many as I could.
I’d be on a rampage to uncover the good stuff before the teacher assigned it,or before someone whom I thought was cool told me the work was awful and despised it. I read it before someone, who didn't "get it, love it, want it," ruined it.
Former Students: Do you mean the teacher, Mrs. Gillham?
Me: No, I mean before YOU ruined it. *tee hee*
Never did an English teacher make an assignment out of a literature text that I hadn’t already looked at, read, or skimmed.
BTW: This habit totally ended when I became an English major and was handed my first Norton Anthology. I never got to all of that. Never.
Somewhere out there are English majors nodding their hoary heads as they squint their myopic eyes at this blog.
When I became a high school English teacher, especially when I was teaching ninth graders, I always fell a little in love with the student, who after he or she got to know me, would come in before class or hang around after class and confess his habit: Uh, Mrs. Gillham? You know that story or that poem or that play …? And then he would want to discuss it, you know, before the other students ruined it.
Did any of you guys do this? I mean, lap up the literature -- I already know that a few of you ruined it.