I remember my mom and dad reading to me every night before I went to bed when I was a young child. I had a bed so large (“She’ll grow into it,” they said, eyeing the bargain price) that it took a step stool for me to get into it, and next to my bed was a small white bookshelf, slowly filling up with the books given to me by friends and family. I was desperate to learn how to read, and I distinctly recall the feeling of orienting myself to a written page before I knew what all the letters meant. The pictures told me which was to hold the book, but the words themselves remained a mystery. I remember tracing the slick, black letters with my chubby finger as my parent’s voice revealed their meanings.
My dad had a typewriter he used for work, and sometimes, when he was away, my mom would feed some paper into the machine and let me pound away. Occasionally, she would guide my fingers to the keys, showing me which ones to press to write my favorite words or my name. Once, I found sheets of this typing in a crate of old pictures, jumbled and crooked meaningless amalgamations of letters interspersed with “Crystal,” “puppy,” “Mommy,” and “toes,” often overlapped with crayon doodles like some kind of palimpsest. These were some of my earliest written words.
After my first day of kindergarten, I returned home with complaints that my teacher said that “yellow” was “yeller” and that I wouldn’t be allowed in the library until second grade. My parents sent me to another school. I drank in the lessons from the small readers that smelt like white rice, and soon our nightly reading sessions became a partnership. One night, I got so excited about the story that I wanted to finish it more quickly, and I asked my mom “Can’t I just read it myself?” Suddenly, the world had opened up. I read everything! Over the next years, teachers accused me of taking speed-reading courses and students accused me of being a nerdy bookworm, but I always knew the truth: I had discovered a passion and a path into the worlds beyond my own.