Sunday, April 19, 2009

What if You Couldn't Read?

Illiteracy . Definition: "The condition of being unable to read and write . When I was a little kid, after supper was reading time. Dad sat down with his newspaper or a book; Mom had her Ladies' Home Journal, and my big sister always had a book going. At one point I decided that if I just stared really HARD at a book, the words in it would begin to make sense. (I may have told you this before....I'm old, cut me some slack.) I remember taking a book out the bookcase next to the fireplace, lying on the floor and staring at it. It didn't work. In later years I discovered that the book I had taken down was on Public Opinion and American Marketing...bleecch.

Of course I did learn to read - I think it was second grade, and they didn't have all those rewards, &c in those days but I learned FAST and always read "ahead of level."

My father sometimes reviewed books for the paper and often brought me review copies of kid books, and we always had lots and lots of fabulous books to read. "Illiteracy"? I thought it meant reading without pleasure, reading slowly.

I know I've told this before (but I'm not going back to look - if you've heard it skip on). When Willie and I were preparing to marry he had to get permission from his mother, and when it came it had a big black X on it surrounded by the words "Ella Mae Carter, her mark." She WAS illiterate (and that was, recall, 1965.)

Yesterday was an annual event at Border's, the Reading Marathon fundraiser for the local Literacy Network. In past years it was a 24-hour period; you could sign up for a stint and collect pledges. During the day they have Celebrity Readers on the hour, reading either from their own books or something else. I always liked taking something like 11:00 pm - 5:00 am. But this year it was just 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. I didn't get the email announcing it until Thursday, either. So I determined to just go, make a donation, and tuck into a corner to read for a few hours.

When I got there at 5:00 (having decided to read until 9) the Celebrity Reader was a veterinarian, Dr. Patricia McConnell. She's written DOZENS of books on dog training and understanding and grooming....and she has a program on NPR called "Calling All Pets" in which discusses qustions pertaining to ANY pets, it's a phone-in show. She's CHARMING!

She has for "dog talk" -- "Ooh, I'm so glad to see you, I'm going to wag my tail right off"....and another "dog-training voice"..."GUH-BOY, GUH-BOY!!" So I sat and listened to her until about 6:00. She's delightful. The whole audience sat and stayed during the entire reading.

I also noticed that they had a rather nice spread of munchies, so I staked out my little corner in the Children's Department and got a plateful.

By the way, I didn't read my dream book by Robert Moss; I actually decided to finally give myself a long interrupted read of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which I've been reading in wee hunks for some time. It's an "I CAN put it down to do something else but I'd rather not" sort of book. I made a little table for myself out of one of the stools for reaching books high up...there are a lot of those in the Children's Department for some reason...and settled in. The nosh? There was pita bread with a very smooth hummus, some of those (terrific) cup-shaped chips and some lovely rather sweet salsa and some tiny squares on crackers from a fancy restaurant. They seemed to have sundried tomatoes on a cracker with some mild sauce and teensy blobs of really good roquefort (which is, see earlier post, endangered).

These were beyond delicious! It was all I could do to not fill up my little plate from the silver tray of 'em. I even practiced saying "These should be fine for us all" before loading up and dodging back into my little corner -- but in the end I was good and only went back once -- uhm...twice...OK! I went THREE TIMES, but they were out-o'-sight. Oh. Well, when Mr Dearling stopped in for a visit I had him go get some for me too. Twice. So I could keep reading and shaddup about it.

I was there to read after all, not eat. Mostly. The upshot was that I made real progress on my book, enjoyed some very yummy treats - and I got a VERY NICE travel cup, gleaming metallic green with the Literacy Network logo on one side and all the corporate sponsors on the back. That was for my donation. It was a very nice evening - think of the luxury of tucking into a little corner with your only obligation being to READ - while enjoying some free munchies. My idea of a Great Evening, if I do say so myself.

And then, after all was said and done, books were packed away, paper plates discarded and I trundled happily home, feeling well-content and rather satisfied. And when I got home...

To sleep. We're good at that, too, in our house.


Anonymous said...

What a delightful evening!

Joan said...

I do know what it is like not be able to read. After having a stroke in 2006, I was told not to try to read for at least one week. But the Doctors didn't tell me that I might not be able to read at all. When I did try to read it didn't make sense. I wondered how I live. Then I had a dream that I went into a Book Store and bought a Maeve Binchy book. I could see her name, but not the name of the book. I knew that then I would be able to read again- and I did.

janna said...

"The audience sat and stayed..." That made me laugh out loud! ;-)

Linda L. said...

I could read before I started Kindergarten. By 7th grade, I was reading at a second semester 12th grade level. My niece, who is in Kindergarten, can read at a second semester 3rd grade level. I feel so blessed!

And Joan - I am so glad you recovered your reading skills!