I am sitting back and searching the cobwebs of my mind for the earliest memories of reading capabilities. The memory banks of my brain afford me memories from approximately the age of five years old. My mind does not provide me with memories of personal reading development before I entered kindergarten. Recollections of learning to read are non existent. I entered kindergarten with a love of books already embedded in my very being, Initially, I was an avid reader. At the age of five, independent reading was my forte. I was the textbook example of a child who entered school as an enthusiastic advanced reader. Negative experiences would soon change my perception of literature.
Parents and teachers tend to place demands on early readers. The child can become a showpiece. It is human nature for a parent or teacher to push a child to excel. As in my case, this can have deleterious effects. I was capable of reading simple story books independently in kindergarten. Dr. Seuss books were a source of enjoyment for me. Whenever I brought a Dr. Seuss book home from the school library, my mother would force me to return it. I was pushed to read more advanced books. Dr. Seuss books were deemed as below my reading level within the home. What was neglected was my cognitive level. Without question, my reading skills were advanced. I was only five years old however. Dr. Seuss was age appropriate for my developmental level.
I was born in August. This placed me in the youngest age group within my kindergarten class. My innate need to appease my mother and my love of simpler books caused me to devise a secret plan. The simpler books would remain at school in my desk. My mother never caught on. In first grade my level of fluency increased. Nancy drew chapter books were the norm for me. They were devoured by my six year old mind. Many hours were spent in my bedroom reading Nancy Drew. One setback caused irritation for me. My mother would quiz me on the plots of the books I had completed. At the ripe old age of six, I had mastered the comprehension of plots. My mother was so absorbed in pushing me to hone my skills that she had once again forgotten that I was a small child.
Second grade was the year that I began hiding my skills. Too much attention and pressure was placed on my young developing mind. The five year old who had displayed pride in reading skills became the seven year old who hid them. I completed the whole S. R. A. box by mid year. My second grade teacher perceived me as a novelty. She would call in the fifth grade teacher and have me read fifth grade S. R. A. cards out loud. This attracted the attention of other children in my class. The attention was not positive. When other children struggled with reading passages, the teacher would call on me to read out loud for the struggling child. I grew to abhor my second grade teacher.
Although I was an avid reader, I suffered from severe speech impairment. My speech impairment was described as a watery s. I spent six years of elementary school in speech therapy. By junior high, my speech impairment was a memory. The damage to my self esteem was not. The children in my second grade class had lashed back at me by naming me slurpy Sue the teachers pet. Playground scuffles ensued as a result. My resolution was to pretend that I was a struggling reader so the children would cease their relentless teasing. I would publicly ask the teacher to decipher a word for me. I always made sure the children were in earshot. My rationale was that if they saw me getting reading help I would be accepted as one of the guys.
Another ploy was to play the part of classroom comedian. The negative class room climate had thwarted my love of reading. If more sensitivity for my developmental level and speech impairment been exercised by the teacher, I would have flourished. My perception of second grade was threatening. The teacher was not a safe person for me to share my skills with. I would continue to be a class clown until high school. Reading continued to provide me enjoyment. I became a closet reader for the majority of my school career.
Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE
Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9