Taking your first steps isn’t easy. You have to spend countless attempts at having your fair share of falls before finally staying afoot and keeping balance. These endless trails become tiresome but once you finally start walking, the biggest smile appears on your face. For me, learning how to read and write was like taking my first steps, but it honestly took more time for me to even grasp the concept. You see, reading and writing is a process. There are steps one has to master and there’s a new turn every day. It’s like once you’ve mastered the art of walking, there’s running, perhaps jumping, to even dancing. Just like walking, there are sets of skills that are waiting to be acquired in reading and writing, even I have yet to acquire half of them. I grew up with two sisters and my mother inside a huge flat in central London. Inside that flat was the stepping-stones to my education and imagination, the place where I got to experience many of my firsts. Those firsts obviously including walking, talking, singing, drawing, and the obvious, reading and writing. My mother was the first to introduce the three of us to reading and writing. She always stressed the importance of education and would always make sure we got the best out of it. My mother didn’t have the greatest education when she was younger, so her past is what really drives her to make her kids reach their fullest potential.
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When we were babies she’d always read us bedtime stories. This got my sisters and I enthralled into the world of books. These stories sparked my imagination and were something that kept us connected. We bonded over these stories. We were so enlightened that it somehow waltz its way into our lives. Although bedtime stories were the beginnings of the actual step that got me to learning, my mother had her own methods of teaching us how to read and write.
I remember when she had gone to the store and came back with a huge box wrapped in colorful prints. I thought it was a toy and was really eager to play with it. I had the biggest urge to unwrap the box myself but my mother warned us not to touch it because it was something important that she wanted us to have. The next thing I remember is her hanging up this huge plastic sheet that covered the wall. It was a calendar with pockets or shelves that marked the days of the week. Within each pocket was a place to set books for every day of the week, books that my sisters and I were required to read. Looking at it now, my mother had basically set up our own little library right in the corner of our bedroom. I still remember the giddy feelings my sisters and I had when our mother began to set it up. The colorful jacket covers of each book sparked our interests and we just wanted to dive in. The first to arrive would always get the book they wanted before anyone else but sometimes our mother would hand us a book she wanted us to read. We would sit and try to read the books together as our mum guided us and helped us with words we didn’t know. I was only around three when we started and I never really thought of reading as a chore. For me, it was mainly because I enjoyed the little pictures that filled up the pages. I had the hardest time when it came to doing anything other than drawing. My mother said that once I learned how to pick up a pencil, the only thing I would do is draw. She said I’d draw as if my life depended on it. With drawings I still liked to give my characters dialogue of their own, to make them come alive like the pictures I enjoyed in the books I looked at constantly, but it wasn’t easy. Reading and writing was my biggest struggle but that didn’t stop me from picking my assigned book from the plastic pocket shelf and read it with my mum. I did enjoy the concept of reading and writing, I just needed extra help. My mother put me in semi-private classes where I could have one on one time with my teachers. It did upset me because I couldn’t reach the skill level that my sisters were extruding countlessly. They would always finish their books before me and even started writing stories of their own. I felt like I was behind, lost even. Though I helped and enjoyed drawing characters and scenes for my sister’s books, there was still something in me that felt small. It was almost getting to the point where I wanted to give up and figured that all I needed was to be immersed in art for the rest of my life. But with the help of my mother and the patience my preschool teachers had with me, I was finally able to get from creating pictures to actually being able to read and understand the text in front of me. After getting the hang of it, I found myself reading more and more. There was a day when I was minding my business, reading a book I found in my room when my twin walked up to me. I didn’t notice her at first, I was too enthralled with entering the world of fairies and ballerinas to look up at her. But she made her presence known. Without warning, she grabbed the book out of my hand but didn’t successfully pull it away from me because of my insane reflexes. We had a game of tug of war, me crying that I had it first and her arguing that she wanted to read it before successfully snatching it out of my hands and leaving little me bawling my eyes out. My mother still has this video tucked inside some folder of a computer file. It is honestly the funniest yet saddest experience I’ve ever had with reading, but it shows just how much I enjoyed it. I don’t have a lot of memories that resonate with me when it comes to writing. There wasn’t anything special or substantial to my writing process, I just learned how to write the way everybody else did: copying letters onto the lines provided in your writing book before those letters slowly turned into words. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy writing as much as I do reading. You can’t really enjoy one without the other. With writing, I’m able to make my own stories, build my own world, and make my own decisions. I can practically create the perfect world if I wanted to, but reading just takes me to this place of solace where I feel safe and comfortable. I could go anywhere with a book in hand and be in my own little bubble. I don’t have to think much and I can escape the madness that is reality.
I’ve always thanked my mother for everything she has done for me and giving me the stepping-stones to read and write is one of the things I’ll always be grateful for. I still have a lot to learn when it comes down to it. There are always new words to learn and new vocabulary to add. It’s a big world and a huge chunk I’ve yet to see. My earliest memories shape my learning process today. My hunger to read even though I have no free time to read for my own pleasure and the urge I have to still learn more. I can’t wait to see where these things may take me in the future.
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