One of my earliest memories is of my older sister reading Little Black Sambo which dates me since the book stopped being P.C. about the time we stopped taking a “black man by the toe” when we Eeny-meeny-miny-mo’ed.
It delighted me no end to think of the tigers running until they turned into butter to be served with pancakes which were my favorite meal then and now. My sister is 4 years older than I so she was a reading 1st grader about that time and I was a chubby, blonde 2-year-old hanging on her every word.
I’m not sure if I learned the words or if I just memorized since Georgie Jane has the ability to wither roses with an Imperious Stare. It was something she was born with as the oldest sister. By the time she determined I should be reading by myself, I got the Imperious Stare if I couldn’t tell her what a particular grouping of letters spelled. (“Margaret. What does that word say?”) (Blank stare from me.) (Imperious Stare from her.)
The result was that I learned how to read by myself at a relatively early age. Trips to the library were almost daily events in the summer. About mid-afternoon, we would don our flip-flops and make the trek through the shimmering summer heat to the Live Oak County Courthouse where the library was housed.
The librarian in our small south Texas town knew what we Coleman girls liked to read and kept set asides when new books arrived. During the summer when we spent a month at Montell or a couple of weeks at Grandma’s house, the librarian made our book selections and sent them to us.
The reading heritage was passed along to us by our parents. Slipping into their room at night after a bad dream, I was almost guaranteed to see one or both of them with a book in their hands. Mother loved mysteries; Daddy liked historical novels or commentaries. They both believed that if you can read, you can do anything. And to a great extent, I’ve found that to be true. From cooking to sewing to changing a tire or laying tile, the written word has the strength to teach me how to do complete the task at hand.
The written word is a relatively new invention. People used speech 6,000,000 years ago; even insects communicate by sound. But writing? It wasn’t used until 6,000 years ago.
- Sumerians used graphics to convey ideas in 4,000 B.C.
- Phoenicians invented a wrttn lngg tht nly sd cnsnnts n 2,000 B.C.
- Greeks added vowels in 1,000 B.C.
- It was in 900 A.D. that spaces were inserted between words.
- Very little has changed in writing format for 1,000 years
When Mother lost her eyesight to macular degeneration, she went into a deep depression. How was she going to read? She loved books and, at 72, was sure that she couldn’t learn braille. We enrolled her in Lighthouse of the Blind tape exchange where she could order 5 or 10 books and listen to them.
Although I wasn’t sure she’d enjoy them, she did. We listened to them together just like we used to read together in bed. Mother got embarrassed if a book had an intense love scene and would just skim past it, returning to earnest reading when the sex scene was finished. She did the same thing with her tapes. To 14-year-old Georgie who sat on the bed with her, she’d say, “Close your ears, honey,” as she fumbled to fast forward from “probing tongue” to the “crescendo of love.”
When a hurricane threatens the coast, we board up and make sure we have fresh water, batteries for the flashlights, candles, canned foods, and most important of all, books. We keep our priorities straight! Sometimes it’s a new friend, a book never read before. Sometimes, it’s an old friend like To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone with the Wind. It doesn’t matter. I can weather any storm as long as I have a truly good book with me.