In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”
I don’t know if I’m compulsive or obsessive about reading. If I don’t have a book or my Kindle with me I don’t know what to do with my eyes so I will read whatever is at hand — medicine bottles, junk mail, anatomy posters in the doctor’s office, eye charts, candy wrappers, receipts and grocery lists from the bottom of my purse, the outside covers of books other people are reading, and even toilet paper wrappers (don’t ask).
I loved words from the time I was 3 or 4 years old. I knew that the letters on the page were sounds and that the sounds made words and the words made stories. I “read” my books by looking at the pictures then looking at each individual word and, although I didn’t know what the word said, when I got to the last word I knew it was time to turn the page. I never had anyone read to me so I read to myself and to my sister.
We were innocent in the mid-1950’s. We went to kindergarten to learn to interact socially, to take directions from teachers and to be comfortable in a classroom environment. There was no such thing as pre-school. We didn’t learn our ABCs, numbers or anything else. Unlike today when it seems that my grandchildren must know how to parse a sentence, conjugate verbs, speak a second language, read a Dostoevsky novel, play a musical instrument and know basic geometry before they graduate from kindergarten. We were truly blessed to be allowed to be children. But, I still couldn’t read.
First grade taught me the alphabet and phonics. Oh joy! I learned how to sound out words with the Dick and Jane series of books. Second grade we were allowed to use the school library and take books home.
But, third grade was the best year ever. I was in a new school and Mrs. Bailey let us read whatever we wanted after lunch and we had spelling bees every day! I soon discovered that most of the other kids didn’t know how to sound out words and I was quickly recognized as the best speller in the class. By winning the classroom spelling bee I got to represent Mrs. Bailey’s class in the school’s third grade spelling bee.
The competition was held in the library and I seem to remember there were 6 or 8 of us in the spelling bee. I was so proud and scared. I had no problem with words like music, yellow, happy, kitten, kitchen, orange but then I found myself one of the two finalists. The word was “Indian”. I didn’t know whether to wet my pants or cry. I cried. This was the longest word in the spelling bee; three syllables. Not fair!
The other kid couldn’t spell it. The librarian asked me why I was crying so I told her that the word was too long. By then my nose was running and I had the “snubbies”; you know, when you cry so hard your breath hitches? God bless Mrs. Bailey. She handed me a tissue and whispered, “Jodi, just sound it out.” I did and I spelled the longest word in my world.
That’s also the year Mrs. Bailey taught us how to write in cursive, my second favorite thing next to reading.