Monday, August 9, 2010


This morning my son was pointing at some boxes and asking "What's that?" (which is the standard statement these days), his mom said "Boxes". The little fellow shook his head no and very clearly pointed at the words on the first box "Jim Beam" replied his mother, he took a couple steps and pointed at a box on my game shelves very clearly pointing at the words on the box and his mother read out "Worlds of Wonder" and the baby chortled in glee. He's recognizing that printed words exist.

That immediately triggered my memory of being able to read. It was the summer before I started 1st grade. One of the older neighbor boys had this really cool horror comic which he let me browse at for a minute or two and it was full of lurid horror images (I don't think I ever saw anything like it to that point), I returned it too him with some disappointment but secured the location of purchase from him.

I was determined to give that comic a good solid browsing and collected my nickles and dimes and walked off the nearby store. I couldn't cross streets in those days but I was allowed to wander off the very small dead end street we lived on to play with friends who lives on adjacent dead end streets. I realized to my delight I could get all the way to the store by never technically crossing the street as one could enter a dead end street, walk to the end and walk back out on the other side without ever having to cross a street.

The store that held by quarry was a Butcher's store run by an Italian family, they'd dote over my mother when she went shopping there with my brother and I (there were few Italians in that neighborhood). The shop had one of those old fashion coolers that opened on the top full of bottle of Cokes, Orange Crush and the occasional Yoo Hoo. There was a tiny assortment of candy and a freestanding comic rack that rotated. There was my quarry with a few other comics which i didn't allow to distract me. I bought the comic with a few cheap candies and went home to enjoy my purchases.

I was sitting there chomping on some candies flipping through the comic when something amazing happened: I could read the comic. I could read some words before that and had flipped through my father's comics along with a number of Disney and Casper comics before that but this was different. All of a sudden I could read and understand what I was reading! It was a miracle and I was certainly hooked on comics from that point on.

Looking back I realize it wasn't a complete miracle as my parents had taught me my letters and numbers and had certainly taught me to read some words and had always read to me such books as Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland. I'd never read a whole story all by myself to that point, certainly not one I'd sought out myself. I still recall the comic; one story was about a werewolf and another was about a creepy murderer who owned a curiosities shop full of monsters that eventually did him in.

My parents were readers and enjoyed sci-fi books so I was a lucky kid who had access to dozens of sci-fi novels to cut my reading teeth on. My dad (who was younger then most dads) also had a number of comics including titles like Tarzan, Swamp Thing, Jonah Hex and Conan. I read Lord of The Rings for the first time in second or third grade, my dad insisted I start with the Hobbit not because it was a kiddie story, he just wanted to make sure I read the whole story.

All that flashed through my mind after my one year old chortled at "Worlds of Wonder" and I just had to share the moment. I wonder what his first full read is going to be?

1 comment:

  1. Great story about you, and about your son!

    For me, all that reading stuff came together for me very late, but all at once one night when I was looking at the inside of a Whitman's Sampler box cover. I remember first recognizing the word "layer," then it was like a light switch in the brain: I could suddenly read every word on that box cover...and the JC Penney catalog sitting next to it...and...

    After that night I went from being a year behind all my classmates to zooming by them when it came to reading comprehension. Reading and writing became passions of mine because, I think, of how long it took me to learn.

    For a long time I thought that the Whitman's Sampler story was just me mis-remembering a much longer process, but my oldest brother remembers it just the same.