I’ve been told that I could read well before kindergarten. I don’t remember being able to. I suspect I could read some individual words only. That I didn’t quite understand how a sentence worked. I have this suspicion because I’m fairly certain I remember reading for the first time. It was my first day in my new kindergarten class – our family had moved in the middle of the year. The day had been rough. I was late to begin with, I didn’t know anyone and was totally unprepared for the Story Safari.
Story Safari had all the children sitting on the carpet in front of the teacher while she got us ready for story time.
“Does everyone have their story helmets?”
I immediately panicked. I didn’t have a story helmet! I felt even worse as I watched the others lift their invisible helmets to their heads. I’m not trying to be cute here, I had no idea what was going on. While the rest of the children mimed trudging across the story bridge and moved into the story jungle I grew more and more anxious.
Finally, we broke up and everyone hurried off to their favorite reading spots, with their favorite books. Somehow, I wound up under the play structure staring at a little two-color print copy of Goldilocks and The Three Bears.
I wish I could recall the whole scene. I can only speculate on what I was feeling. I was only four. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know how to read. I probably felt like crying. Luckily, I can recall something, the decisive moment, how I learned to read.
Here’s the secret: staring. I pounded that little book with my eyes like fists on a table. Somehow, my defeat and kinder-despair had resolved into determination. I was going to to read this book. Face screwed up, eyes vibrating slightly with effort, I stared. And then it happened. Like magic really. Like a lens bringing a blurry picture into focus, except the focusing was happening in my mind, the individual words formed into sentences and I was reading.
Looking back as an adult on the probable origins of my reading anxiety, how do I feel? Of course, you know already: Just right.