RB7 “Follow the Reader”

Sunday’s paper was on the dining room table.  We ate breakfast in the dining room on Sundays.  There was Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa and my three sisters.  All day on Sundays was grand.  My sisters and I did not need to be awaken on Sundays.  The aroma from the kitchen got us up.  My mother and grandmother prepared the best biscuits I’ve have ever tasted.  There was a lot of meat – bacon, sausage, salmon croquets, and fried chicken.  Grits and toast was also on the table.  All this meat on Sundays may be partially responsible of why I am almost a vegetarian.  My favorite was the biscuits and apple jelly, or pear preserves that I my grandmother made and kept in some pretty jars.  After breakfast, we got ready and put on our clothes that were only to worn only Sundays.  My father drove his car and my grandfather drove his car to the small church in a rural community.  When I was younger, the ride to church seemed like it took hours, but it only takes about 20 minutes to get to there.  I always wanted to ride with my grandparents.  I sat between them in their car.  Seatbelts were not required in the late 60’s.  When riding with my grandparents, I would daydream and often recalled Sunday’s paper on the dining room table.  I loved to read and couldn’t wait to get back home to read the comics – not the newspaper.

When we returned home from church, we would change clothes and go out to play until we were called in for lunch/dinner.  Lunch/dinner was a bigger feast than breakfast. During the time before dinner, I would play outside for a while and then go inside and ask my grandfather for the comics to read.  I still read the same comics today that I read when I was young – Blondie, Peanuts, and Beetle Bailey.  My father was in the army and I enjoyed reading about army life.  Peanuts was my favorite, because of SNOOPY!  Schroeder was also very influential to me as a child during this time.  I was a piano student and wanted to play Beethoven’s classical music like Schultz character.  Reflecting to Snoopy, I liked Snoopy even though he was lazy.  Snoopy had an imagination of being whatever he wanted to be. I liked Snoopy when he was an author and college student.

Reading and writing was always important in our family.  My mother was always reading something, and my sister Cheryl loved to read Harlequin romance books.  Mom would read to us when we were young.  There was a public library within walking distance from our home.  She would walk us to the library and we could check out books to read at home.  My mother selected books that were classics and suitable to read for young children.  We learned to write in school; however, it was Mom that made it a point to for me and my sisters to write legible, so people could understand what we wrote.  The summers were fun outside playing and when we got too hot outside, we came in to read.  Mom ordered a 4-set book – 1965 Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney.  I read Disney’s books, looked at pictures, and words I did not know or recognize, my mother or grandmother pronounced the word and told what it meant.  These books included stories from other lands, about nature, America, and fantasyland. I read the stories Lady and The Tramp, Toby Tyler, Ben and Me, The Shaggy Dog, Cinderella, and Old Yeller, from Disney’s book about America, and numerous other stories.  I found these books after my mother’s death and they are on my bookshelf now.  They are not in the best condition; however, me and my sisters gained a lot from reading these books.  We comprehended what we read and what we didn’t understand, Mom was there.  I provided my own daughter with the same experiences I had as a child regarding reading and writing.  My daughter won a Spelling Bee contest at her school in the 5th grade.  She went to the State Spelling Bee Competition and came in second place.  She misspelled the word sequester.

I started basic reading and writing at home; however, kindergarten and elementary school was critical.  I had very good literary instructors.  I attended a public school.  The book series Dick and Jane was predominant for reading in public schools.  The book series was created by an educator Williams S. Gray and former teacher and reading consultant Zerna Sharp.  William S. Gray (1885-1960) was among those who led the way for a new way of teaching literacy. Gray received a Ph.D. in education at the University of Chicago. He then became dean of the college of education at the University and eventually was chairperson of its teacher preparation committee in the years 1933 – 1945.  Gray and Sharp believed that the “whole world” method was the ideal way to teach reading.  Students learned in this method to look and say or a site and the word. This method taught children to look at each word unit. These educators felt students could recognize the word “house” or “down” more easily than they could sound it out. There was a lot of repetition also.  The characters in the books included Dick, Jane, Sally, and my favorite – the dog Spot.  One day, my father brought home a black dog.  I didn’t know what kind of dog it was, but me and my sisters called our dog Spot also.

Dick and Jane book series had large print as opposed to the small print in Disney’s book and the pictures were colorful and simply beautiful.  With the words repeating and limited vocabulary – you could learn to read.  For example, “See Spot run, Run Spot run”.  You can learn two words here – run and Spot.  Run is indicated three times and Spot is mentioned twice.  See another example of word repetition from the book series:

Jane said, “Look, look.

I see a big yellow car.

See the yellow car go.”

Sally said, “1 see it.

I see the big yellow car.

I want to go away in it.

I want to go away, away.

Most students in public schools including myself learned to read the Dick and Jane series published by Scott, Foresman.  William Gray believed that by the time a child completed second grade, students needed phonics to sound out more complex words. In the leap to teaching “whole word,” it is not clear that school systems ever got the message about teaching phonics later.  I never learned phonics.

Having good literary instruction in primary and secondary school is very important.  I was taught to read and write as separate entities.  There are many pros and cons and overall, I like the method today of teaching with phonics verses Gray’s method – Dick and Jane.  I learned to write and read in school – with my mother and extended family as inspiration and motivation.  When I started college, I did not have as many struggles writing papers as some of my peers.  I recall a paper I wrote in my junior Sociology class “Adolescent Delinquency – A Case Study”.  I was prepared to write the seven-page case study with no help except for the APA Publication Manual.  I am currently actively involved with Toastmasters International and have written over 30 speeches in the past three years and desire to write editorials soon.



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