Learning to Read

The other night we went to hear Roch Carrier speak. I have been a fan of “The Hockey Sweater” since I was a kid, but this was the first time I had heard him give a presentation. It was a great evening — Mr. Carrier is such an interesting and engaging person, and I really enjoyed listening to him talk about his career as a writer. He also read some of his short stories to us, including one about how he learned to read. I was particularly touched by this story, given how the words he has written have undoubtedly inspired many other young Canadians to fall in love with reading. I know I certainly remember how I enjoyed reading excerpts of his stories in our grade school readers.

I have some recollection of when I first learned to read. My mom tells me that I taught myself, but I’m sure that isn’t entirely true given how frequently we were read to. I do remember wanting so desperately to be able to read like the grown-ups around me, and I’d often sit with a book open in my lap, staring at the pages in the hopes that something magical would happen and I’d start to comprehend what I was seeing in front of me. My aunt Irene bought me a book at a garage sale to practice with. I don’t recall what book it was, but I do remember it was a green hard-backed book and I remember sitting with her, circling in pencil the words I knew how to sound out. After that the details get a bit blurry, but I know that once I figured it out I wanted to read any books I could get my hands on. Ramona Quimby, Laura Ingalls and Nancy Drew soon became close, personal friends. Trips to the public library were much anticipated, and to this day the crinkly sound of a laminated library book cover makes me smile.

Of course I continue to read a lot now, but the majority of the reading I do for work is non-fiction. I love the subjects I teach and research, so I do very much enjoy reading books on the history of art, visual culture, botanical illustration, etc., however Mr. Carrier’s talk made me realize how much I miss the pleasure of being carried away by a good story. This summer I’m going to be sure to add some fiction to my reading list!


William Brymner, The Picture Book [1898]
Image Source: National Gallery of Canada/CyberMuse

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