Reading Then

Posted 5/26/19

Words are the foundation of this category comprised of letters of the alphabet. One of the first things a first grade teacher did was to require the student to know and recite the alphabet. Some …

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Reading Then


Words are the foundation of this category comprised of letters of the alphabet. One of the first things a first grade teacher did was to require the student to know and recite the alphabet. Some students entered the first grade having had it been taught to them while others had no skill in school work. Many students struggled academically because their parents had very little schooling and were unable to teach them the basics needed to excel in their grades. Children with parents who could only sign their name with an X, which many did, were at a decisive disadvantage in their early school years. It was difficult for the children of these parents to rise to greater heights, and it was the duty of a good teacher to help them do so. Fortunately, there were many dedicated teachers who inspired a number of students to seek loftier goals and live fruitful lives.

Reading was a necessary start for the young students to meet the requirements of a sound education. Learning the alphabet was the starting point, but it was not enough. In order for a letter to have a meaningful life, it must find a partner, or partners, to construct a meaningful word. In order for the word to come alive, it too must find a partner, or partners to form a sentence which will then look for partners which will then constitute a paragraph. When all this has had an organizational assembly and the paragraphs join forces, the results can take the readers from the classroom to anywhere the joined words will take them.    

The teacher would take chalk in hand and begin teaching the young students words that had only found three or four partners (ant-bat-cat-dog-eat), and the words would appear on the blackboard. The words would be pronounced a number of times as it appeared on the blackboard. The standard practice for my teacher was for her (always female in elementary school for me) to have us copy the word as she had written it on the blackboard into our ruled tablets to be used for home work. It was in this manner that I was first introduced to Dick, Jane, their dog spot, and others. I surmise that Dick and Jane met a lot of first graders as they appeared in classrooms long before, and long after, my first grade year.

It was always hard for me to justify the homework requirement as I had so many chores to do before darkness fell. The first few years that I was in school all studying (which was minimal) had to be done by the light of a “coal oil” (kerosene) lamp as electrical lines had not yet reached the remote section of the state where we lived. Needless to say, homework often came up short. 

Reading gradually carved out a special place in my life. Due to very limited pre-school preparation, it took a while for me to get the hang of converting words into pictures. When I finally caught on, the story of Helen Keller at the well when the word “water” realistically entered her vocabulary had meaning and added significance to my efforts to read. I can vividly recall when only the pictures in a book made any sense, and the printed word was like we would later say about things that we could not understand, “That’s all Greek to me.” I then took to words “like a duck takes to water” to use another cliché. Cliché? Where does that word come from with an apostrophe, or whatever that thing is hovering over it?  I see that I still have a lot to learn about words).

After learning to read and finding out that words could give me an escape from our small house at the end of the road, I read practically everything that I could get my hands on. The first book that I remember reading, except school books, was ‘Black Beauty”. Being an animal lover, “Black Beauty” took me on such an enjoyable ride that I wanted other books to take me to places where I could never otherwise go. Later in High School I read the majority of the books available in the library. Admittedly, the little library was stuck under the stairs that led to the second floor and had very little space. Therefore, the selections of subjects were very limited. There were books available, however, that would take the reader through the Amazon Rain Forest and a ride down the wild river, and others would allow a safari through the plains of Africa, or a chilling trek to Lapland, the land of the reindeer. In my mind these stories are timeless, relevant eighty years ago, and will still be relevant eighty years from now.

Contact Wheeler Pounds at 3424 Kings Mill Rd, Oakman, AL 35579, or at