A good meditation as school begins.
I teach “Freshman Comp” to first year college students. One of the readings with which we begin the year is the passage from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, when he describes how he learned to read, and how important it was to him. Douglass was a slave; the wife of his master began to teach him, and then her husband stopped her. He said that slaves should not learn how to read; reading gave them too many ideas! There’s much more to this narrative – you should read it!
I believe that most of us take our ability to read for granted. We shouldn’t; it’s one of the keys to freedom – freedom on all levels.
I grew up in a household where both parents were readers. I remember how eager I was to learn to read. I would pester my mother to read to me until one day she said “I can’t wait for you to learn to read, so you can read these books yourself!” I totally agreed.
Here’s a poem I wrote about learning to read. It’s not philosophical at all!
Pick it up and read,
sang the child’s voice beyond the wall.
The first word was SAID.
Three children –
a boy and two girls,
played with a dog and a cat.
White children with brown hair
whose plain names excited me
to hear in the air from my own mouth.
I had trouble telling
through from thought,
though from thorough.
My father picked me up at school.
We walked by the statue of Saint Agnes,
through the cement arch
from schoolyard to street.
I thought about knowing how to read SAID
though, by itself, it was lying alone in a corner,
but put it behind someone,
and it opens its mouth to a thorough coverage
of the news of the day.