I learned to read when I was four.
The local paper used to have a section called the Green Sheet, which contained comics and the daily Jumble and crossword puzzles. The story goes that I was perusing the Green Sheet with my Grandma one afternoon when I suddenly began reading the page out loud and never stopped.
I'm not entirely convinced it actually happened that way, but I do remember reading the headline myself when Michael Jackson's hair caught fire. I was in kindergarten and the teacher had brought in the paper - I remember sitting in our circle on the floor and reading the words out loud before she could settle us in our seats. I caught the look of death for talking out of turn.
I remember thinking the Letter People were absolutely the stupidest thing on the face of the planet. I was bored with coloring in Mr. M and his munchy mouth - at home I was already reading books that didn't have pictures on every page. I also lost more teeth that year than any of the other kids and for some reason that made me very proud.
But first grade was where the awkwardness really set in. Cuz, see, I was sent to a small parochial school that wasn't really prepared to deal with kids who already knew how to read. They were just going to take us through the letter people...AGAIN.
So they did what any good school would do - they sent the problem away. I was to spend Reading class with the second graders.
For an hour each day, I trekked down the hall to the second grade classroom. Every day, all conversation would cease as I entered the room and took a seat toward the back. All eyes were on me until the teacher sighed loudly at my distraction and could divert the class's attention back to the front so she could gave her commands. It was clear, without anyone have to say it out loud, that they thought I was simply trying to look superior. I just felt like a weirdo.
Weirdo or not, I quickly showed that crabby-assed teacher that second grade books were below my reading level as well. Instead of working on projects with the rest of the class, I was again singled out. In the back of that classroom, I was given a workbook (with a golden retriever on the cover - I'll never forget that dog with its tongue hanging out on a green background) and told to work at my own pace.
So I did.
It was early spring when I turned in the last of those worksheets. I remember being bored with them as well. They were mostly busywork, and nothing that really was very difficult.
Then...finally...that spring I was given an assignment that I really, truly loved.
The second grade class had started getting creative writing assignments a few weeks prior, but in my "one man class" status I hadn't been asked to participate. I hadn't really been paying attention to what they were doing to know if it was something I would like or not. I had put on a "don't look at them and they won't tease me" facade. Most days I wouldn't even see them in the room...it was just me and ol' Goldie the Retriever.
But that first day I was allowed to not just read but WRITE? Oh my God...it seemed there were so many ideas in my head and no matter what the instruction I could make up something and write about it. I couldn't believe that this was something they wanted me to do - that they were encouraging me to do.
By the end of my first grade year I had made that mean ol' teacher's eyes go as big as saucers when I turned in not one, not two, but three sheets - filled front and back - of my childish, large script (for I tried to copy the second graders' cursive even though I myself had not yet had that class). If I remember correctly that witch made me feel bad about 'overdoing it' and looking at me as if I were trying to seem important.
I couldn't help it. It just came so easily to me...writing words onto that large lined paper...that dotted blue line hovering in the middle, guiding me...easing me into writing more...
...TO BE CONTINUED...