I'm not sure what made me think of this the other day, maybe it is because my nephew Jamie and his wife Madison just had a beautiful baby girl Abigail, but I was thinking about how we learn how to read.
I started thinking about how I learned and got to wondering if kids in other countries learn the same way. I think they do based on me taking both Spanish and Russian in school, two languages that I cannot speak more than five words in even with two years of classes each.
My point is, that just like I was taught English, my foreign language classes started the same way, with learning the alphabet. The teacher showed us the alphabet, then showed us both upper case and lower case versions of each letter, and finally we got to see the cursive versions.
Whoa, teach. Slow the heck down. Four different ways to write one letter? Who can ever learn all this stuff? You were then given a pencil about the size of your forearm and a sheet of lined paper and were told to write the alphabet in both lower and upper case. Talk about pressure. Most kids are still trying to stay within the lines when they color in their coloring books.
But with great determination, and many tongues sticking out while writing, we embarked on the first of many future attempts to write something that can be read and deciphered. Ultimately some of us could never master printing or writing and we were forced to become doctors.
We actually were learning to read before we ever set foot in a classroom. Our mom's, dad's, and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others, all were teaching us growing up. They talked to us and read to us so that we would come to understand what they were saying. Parents did the most training with us as they were talking to us thousands of times a day and we learned words by osmosis.
We were read childrens books, well maybe not all of them, but many of them, that had pictures which showed us what the words looked like so we could associate a bird with the word.
We were also taught "a" is for apple, "b" is for bird, etc., and nursery rhymes to help us put words and stories together. All of these simple things eventually led us to be able to read. I find it pretty remarkable and overwhelming at the same time.
Ultimately, it became second nature to us to be able to pick up a book and read it. Of course we didn't go right to reading War and Peace, we started slow and worked our way up to that. I remember many a day and night sitting and reading The Hardy Boys as I started my journey to the classics.
The ability to read is a gift that we use every day and take completely for granted at the same time. How many children, and adults for that matter, around the world would love to be able to read the written word. I had a grandfather who couldn't read or write and it is likely many of you know someone just like that.
To have to go through life without being able to read Shakespeare or The Smartest Generation would be soul crushing, even if you didn't like them. Of all the things we have at our disposal, and abilities, being able to read may be at the top of the list of wonderful things.