Learning to read

Everyone remembers a point in their life where everything changes. Reality suddenly warps and twists around them, changing their perspective and understanding of the entire world. Sometimes it’s big things. And sometimes it’s little things we never think of as life-changing.

For me, one of the most pivotal moments in my life is a very early childhood memory. My mom tells me I must have been two or three when it happened, but I remember it, clear as day. Sitting on the hardwood floor beside the television, paging through one of the many books in the house. That day, it was The Poky Little Puppy. It was nothing out of the ordinary at first, just looking at the pictures and thinking through the story. Obviously, I had it memorized. I’d probably made my mom read that book to me five hundred times. But something different happened, that day, something that has stuck with me through my entire life.

I looked at the words on the page. And for the first time, I knew what they said.

A lot of people tell me they think it an unusual memory. We’re fortunate to live in a world where reading is so commonplace that most people don’t even recall learning to read. It’s just something they always did, something they could always do. They don’t seem to understand that, one time, they sat down with a book in the same way, and their entire world changed.

I often read things above my grade level, things you wouldn’t expect a child my age to read. And I always relate it to that one moment in history, that instant of pure elation, realizing that I could read. All of a sudden, nothing was off limits. The entire wealth of human knowledge was at my fingertips from then on, related in one of the most remarkable forms of communication to exist. A bunch of strange shapes printed on a page, relating not just language, but emotions, feelings, history, stories.

Reading is a wonder of human development often taken for granted. But sometimes, when I crack open a book, I still get that incredible sense of elation I got when I first learned to read.

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