Some where along the years of my growing up, I learned to love the printed word. Now it doesn’t matter much what it is, I’ll read it. By that I don’t mean sleazy stuff, but no matter if it’s science, history, fiction, news or blurbs on a cereal box, I’ll read it. I have a book or magazine in the kitchen, by my chair, in the bathroom. Where ever I am there is a book. My Uncle Arthur always kept a stack of books and magazines in the corner of the tub and the wall in the bathroom to avoid wasting time while sitting in there. (I sometimes chuckle now to wonder if Aunt Rene still has that stack of reading material there. Uncle Arthur went to be with the Lord several years ago now.) I kept a hamper full of books in the bathroom of the Ragersville house while my kids were growing up. I kept books in the wall seat beside the clothes chute in the Winfield house. There is a book on the vanity counter beside the toilet right now. I take a book in my purse when I go to town or on a ride with R & M. I always have a book. I’ve even been known to read the owner’s manual from the glove compartment in the car if I got caught somewhere without anything else.
Our house was always full of books. Mom and Dad had a book case full of books and there were stacks tucked around in other cupboards while I was growing up. By the time I was grown I had read many of those and started collecting my own stacks. I still have two tiny Golden books preserved carefully in my file cabinent from when I was a child. (The Circus Train and A Child’s Garden of Verses ) Now there is a whole bookcase full in my library closet. I have sets collected between bookends in my sitting room and there are boxes in the basement that I have no place to put. (Michael promises to get me another set of shelves, but it hasn’t happened yet.) When I moved from Dover, I gave boxes full of wholesome fiction stories to Dianne for her girls. And I’m still collecting them.
When I was in junior high and high school, I visited the library every week and came home with as many books as they would allow me to take. In addition to my textbooks, one of these went to school with me every day, so when I finished my assignments I wouldn’t be left with nothing to do. While I was in college, the extra books from the library dropped off, but I had textbooks to read. And if my own were exhausted, I had the texts of my room mates.
I don’t know how many words per minute I read. I never thought of it until Mary, one of the other workers on the mission, brought me a ‘reading test’ one day. It was designed to see how fast you could read. I didn’t know that when she gave me the Reader’s Digest book though.
Sister Mary came into the kitchen, I think I was washing dishes at the time, and gave me the book saying, “Here I want you to read this.” She had her watch in her hand looped around her fingers with the face up in her palm, the way you would hold it if you were going to time someone, but I wasn’t paying much attention to that. I had other things on my mind. “Here,” she said, “Read this.” To get her to stop bugging me I took the book and read where she had pointed. It was a paragraph about six or eight lines long, not even about anything in particular, just like someone had isolated a brief portion of a story and printed it.
“Okay, now are you happy?” I said and held the book out to her.
She said, “No, read it first.”
I said, “I did read it. It’s about….” –whatever it was. I can’t remember now.
Sister Mary could not believe I’d read the paragraph. She said she hadn’t had time to time me. She didn’t exactly accuse me of lying, but she did ask me questions about the paragraph to see if I’d really read it. She went away shaking her head. The test had results of the timing printed on another page in the back of the little book. If it took someone 15 seconds to read the paragraph it meant they read so many words per minute and so forth. I wasn’t on the list.
As it happened, one night later in the week I left the school room and went over to our little house to rest before supper. I had an historical biography that I had been wanting to read. I knew exactly when I started because I checked the clock to see how long I had before I had to go help serve dinner. I read until the bell rang for supper, glanced at the clock and put the book face down on the bed. I helped with supper and clean-up and so forth, then went back to our little house, I could have graded papers or whatever but the book was good; so instead of doing those things, I went back to reading.
It was one of those books you can’t put down until you get to the end. I finished the book about nine o’clock as I remember. I went off and straightened things up a bit then got my shower. About the time I was ready for bed I remembered Mary’s little speed reading test. It occurred to me that I had a perfect way to check my reading speed because I knew exactly how long I had been reading or at least to maybe five minutes variation either way. I sat down on the side of the bed and counted the words of five or ten pages—chapter beginnings, chapter endings and full pages. Then I totaled the five counts and did an average number of words per page. Multiplying by the total number of pages in the book and dividing by the number of hours and then the number of minutes gave me the average speed for my reading.
I had either borrowed the book from sister Mary or she wanted to read it or something like that, because the next day when I saw her I told her what I had done… To say she was ‘flabbergasted’ is an understatement. Mary liked to read, but it took her a week or more to finish a book. I could read the same book in a couple days; and that was with everything else I had to do, too.
Sadly, Rachael is dyslexic and reading is a monumental task for her. Deriving information from the printed page requires that she read each page several times. When she had a book to read for her management class, I read the book and then discussed it with her marking highlights and pointing out the information to her while reading those parts aloud. Other wise she would not have been able to finish the book by the time it was to be covered in class. Aurally she is a whiz kid. But reading is a big job. For me it is just the opposite. I have to have the page in my hand and be looking at it to collect the information. Don’t expect me to retain the information from hearing it.
Notah enjoys reading. He began reading when he was in second grade. We had a first grade teacher who was an undercover racist. (Seriously, I do believe that) Both of my kids had her as a first grade teacher. Because they were Native American and it was evident in their facial features and skin tone, she assumed that they would not be able to read the English language. (Never mind that they had grown up in an English speaking house and knew very little Navajo because of their father’s death!) Notah struggled through first grade even being sent to a remedial reading class.
In second grade I got tired of reading snake books to him. We visited the library every week and every week he came home with snake books. He had done all those in the children’s section and was now pestering me to get him books from the teen and adult sections. He was constantly wanting me to read to him.
You know how it is when you have read the same children’s book six times. You start to skip words here and there and paraphrase.. Oh no! Not with Notah’s snake books I couldn’t. He knew if I skipped a word or phrase. I finally said, “YOU read them. You already know all the words.” And he never looked back. By the time he was in sixth grade he was reading the dry, scientific herpetology books from the adult shelves of the public library. He isn’t quite so widely read as I am because he confines his reading to snakes. Even still he has read a lot of books from my shelves.
I baby sat once or twice for the neighbors across the street from us. I’d never taken care of their girls before and I wanted to be a little early incase they had something specific to tell me before they left. Consequently I ran out of the house without my book! Horrors! But I had no time to go back for it. I was sure they would have something to read anyway.
NO! There was NOTHING in that house to read—no books, no newspaper, no magazines NOTHING. I spent four hours listening to the radio and playing with an etch-a-sketch! I couldn’t believe there was a household in the world where people didn’t read. We had books everywhere. I wonder what happened to those little girls growing up with out the richness of print surrounding them. I haven’t remembered them in years.
Humph. Poor kids.