An elementary teacher’s story about reading

 

Hank Segars

Lakelife Associate Editor

 

In a recent edition of The Baldwin Bulletin, the front page featured a timely story by Dillon Johnstone about a literacy fair held at the Milledgeville Mall. Bold headlines read “Literacy: Baldwin students, teachers, parents promote reading.” This compelled me to think about how those of us who enjoy newspapers were first introduced to reading and how important literacy is.

 

Ironically, at the same time the article on literacy was printed, I received a written piece on the same topic from an elementary teacher who was meeting a requirement for a reading endorsement for her teaching certificate. The teacher wanted me to proof her story I found little that needed to be changed. By the way, I always listen to elementary teachers, especially since I am married to one, now retired, who continues to provide good stories.

 

Here is a story the elementary teacher sent me about her experiences in learning to read. She is the writer of today’s column and will be identified at the end of her story:

 

“Reading is the pinnacle of all learning. It is nearly impossible to function in our world without reading thousands of words every single day. Where ever you travel it is imperative that you have an understanding of road signs. You have to make sure that you are reading the terms and conditions of your bank policies.

You have to read in order to function in your job be it a cashier at Chick-fil-A or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In my opinion, reading is the single most important skill a person could have in a world of technology, rapid paced workforces and ever changing knowledge all around. In fact, in my nearly 37 years I can't recall a day where reading was not one of the most important parts of my life.

My early literacy is almost parallel with my birth. Born to a teacher and state employee, reading was never an option. Before I could even walk I had mastered the art of turning pages gently and admiring the beautiful artwork on my card board paged books.

As I developed a love of fairy tales with princesses, castles, and fairy godmothers, I would hang on to every word read to me before going to bed. I would watch my mother and father point to each word as they read the story to me and I saw that there was a rhyme and reason to those funny little markings.

The first story I recall loving was Cinderella. I can remember my mom reading each and every word carefully while pointing out all the characters like the little talking mice and the evil stepmother. I remember her asking me to spot colors like the beautiful blue gown Cinderella wore to the ball. I even remember her reminding me of the important lesson taught in the story that kindness in all situations is of the utmost importance.

I must have asked my parents to read that story to me a million times and before long I was begging them to allow me to read it to them. The funny part was that I could not yet "read" the words but I could retell the story that I had memorized unconsciously with exact precision.

Another very fond early literacy memory I have was my dad reading to me a classic story of a mischievous little rabbit and a briar patch. My dad, being a native of small Georgia town named Eatonton, loved reading stories by a local author named Joel Chandler Harris. Even though some now consider these tales to be "politically incorrect," I still remember the imaginative language these stories contained and could not wait to hear what the next silly adventure would hold for Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox.

The author of these tales would use old southern dialect and my father had mastered the art of saying each and every word as the author had intended. He was also great at changing his voice to match the attitude of the clever characters. The way my father presented these stories made it almost impossible to wait for the next installment of imaginative folklore.

As I grew, I could not wait to catch up to my older brother and read every single book on my bookshelf so I was especially excited to enter elementary school. And I also recall my early teachers introducing vocabulary words weekly. They would give a word and show a picture. They would discuss the word and the students would use the word in a sentence. The word often coincided with our reading series.

My early literacy history is filled with countless memories where books were brought to life through humor, vivid artwork, imaginative language, and varied teaching styles. I was lucky enough to be exposed to reading literature at a very young age which set me on a course for success in both school and life. I credit my passion for teaching based on my positive reading experiences early in my life. I saw from an early age that reading was the way to a life of new adventures and important lessons. Reading truly is the pinnacle of all learning.”

  1. The elementary teacher who wrote this is our daughter, Paige, a Georgia College graduate who teaches 3 grade at Pine Ridge Elementary School over in Harris County, near Columbus. Her story was humbling for me and she covered the topic much better than I ever could.

I am also reminded that elementary teachers can still teach us a lot . . . even when we are adults.

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