Friday, June 26, 2009

Learning to read

I don't remember learning how to read when I was a little kid. Accounts from various family members differ slightly, but they all agree that I was able to read Dick-and-Jane-type books aloud, by myself, with minimal help, by the time I turned 2 years old. Apparently my mom taught me to read using Hooked on Phonics... but, like I said, I don't remember.

I never really realized how unusual that was when I was a kid. I remember going to the bathroom one day in preschool and seeing a memo to the teachers posted up on the wall by the toilet. I read it and didn't understand something it said, so I asked the teacher about it when I got back to the classroom. Apparently it really freaked her out, and when my mom came to pick me up that afternoon, the teacher said, "Do you know that she can read?!" To which my mother replied, "Yes, I told you that at the beginning of the year, remember?" But that exchange didn't happen in front of me, so I didn't realize that being able to read the teachers' memo was such a big deal. Plus, I wasn't the only kid in the preschool who could read -- they took a group of five or so of us out of our reading lessons with Dick and Jane every week and started teaching us to write. (I still don't hold a pen properly, by the way... supposedly this is because the muscles in my hands weren't developed enough when they started teaching me to write.)

Then, for elementary school, I went to a magnet school for gifted and talented children. Everybody in my kindergarten class could read and write. Each week we had to write two or three sentences about what we had done over the weekend. One Monday I wanted to write about something we'd done in Girl Scouts, but I didn't know how to spell the word "twenty". When I asked the teacher, she told me to go look it up in the dictionary -- we had illustrated children's dictionaries stacked up on a counter on the far end of the room. Another time, we read The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read. His wife went out of town and told him what to buy at the store. But he couldn't read the labels, so he bought things based on the shape and size of the packaging. So he was very disappointed to get home and figure out that he had bought wax paper instead of spaghetti, salt instead of sugar, etc. I had such a hard time believing that there was such a thing as a grown man who couldn't read.

When I was 10, the TV show "Christy" began to air. There's an episode where Christy teaches Fairlight Spencer to read using the Bible, and I was so jealous. How come I didn't get to learn to read using the Bible? I loved my Bible -- it had a pink cover with gold embossed lettering and Precious Moments illustrations. Plus everything that Jesus said was printed in red instead of black. And our preacher had signed it for me when I was baptized the year before. My grandmother gave me that Bible, and I was heartbroken when it was stolen out of my backpack at school a few years later.

Well, here I am, 15 years later, learning to read Hebrew. The only text I have at home with Hebrew and Hebrew transliterated into the Latin alphabet is a photocopy of the Pesach Haggadah that my synagogue uses, so I am practicing with it. I'm still at the point where I see the Hebrew and my brain freaks out thinking that it's unreadable gibberish, but when I force myself to sound it out, I manage halfway decently. I'm still too slow to follow along in the Hebrew side of the Siddur, but hopefully with some time and study and patience, that will come, too. (I guess I should be waiting until Hebrew classes start in September to do this, but I'm not exactly a patient person.)

15 years ago I never imagined that one day I'd get to learn to read with prayerbooks and the like... too cool. :)


Beege said...

I LOVED learning Hebrew in seminary. Sadly, I haven't retained it as much as I've retained the Greek (and I liked Hebrew SO much better!), but I can still say some of the blessings, the Shema, and the first part of Genesis.

Bethy{aka}lilsis said...

How did you learn French?

Princess Cat's Pajamas said...

I wish I were able to say some of the blessings -- it's hard when you only get to see the Siddur once a week! I need to check one out and get to memorizing. The only one I know off the top of my head is for the Kidduch... Baroukh Atah Adonaï, Elohénu Mélèkh Haolam, boré peri hagafèn. (Is it wrong to learn the blessing over wine first???)

I learned French in high school from a textbook with a French poodle and a Parisian aristocat... they were cute. :)

Bethy{aka}lilsis said...

Wow, wish I was so lucky with my French ;-)