30 September 2013

My Sister's Gift to Me: A Lifetime Love of Reading

Me and my 3 sisters

I got a call from my older sister this evening. She's interviewing for a training job, and she asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her. This makes sense, as she's been teaching me all my life. 

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my sister (Carin), while she taught me how to read.

I was four years old, and I had a favorite book that I asked Carin to read to me over and over again. One afternoon, when she finished reading the book and I immediately asked her to read it again, Carin explained that if I learned to read to myself, I could have my favorite story any time.

She read the story to me one more time, pointing to each word as she read. At the end of each page, she had me repeat the story to her, again pointing to each word as I recited the familiar story. When simple words like “and” and “the” were repeated, she showed me that the word looked the same on the page every time it appeared.

I soon discovered that I could “read” my favorite book all by myself, but Carin didn’t stop there. She wanted me to be able to read all books, not just the one I had memorized. So she gathered a selection of her favorite books to continue my lessons. She opened the books, one-by-one, pointing out the words that I had memorized from my favorite book.

And when I was confident enough to pick out the words I already knew within the pages of any new book I tried, she took it one step further. Carin pointed out that, just as the words were the same, no matter which story I found them in, each letter and group of letters made the same sounds, no matter which word they belonged to. She worked with me to break down the familiar words until I could put them together again to read any book on our library shelf.

When I got frustrated with the process, Carin wouldn’t let me give up on myself. She simply pointed out the progress I’d already made and encouraged me to try again. When I complained that it would be easier and take less time if she just read the stories to me herself, she explained that, even though teaching me how to do it took more time than simply reading the book to me, if I learned how to read for myself, I would never have to wait for her or anyone else to have the time to read with me again.

Carin’s patient tutoring instilled in my heart a love of books that has shaped my entire life. And now (as you know), my first book is going to be published by Swoon Romance next year! 

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