I’m the youngest and only girl of four kids in my family. As an Air Force family, we had the opportunity to live all over the country. My oldest brother, Aaron, was born in Denver; Josh and Chris were born in Alaska; and I was born in North Carolina. Shortly after my birth, our mom, bless her heart, traveled across oceans with the four of us to meet our dad who was stationed at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea. The reason I write all of this is because it was there, in Korea, where I learned my first words and speech always comes before reading and writing.
In my mind, learning words through hearing and speaking are what ignite the first flame for learning to read. I was able to learn a few Korean words along with the typical toddler babble and have carried many with me through life. The flexibility demanded by military life increased my family’s closeness with one another and the opportunity to experience different cultures, firsthand, grew interest and imagination.
My brothers would orchestrate great shows with song and dance for our parents. We would laugh and play and create wonderful memories together, as siblings. I believe that the foundation of creativity and imagination paved the way towards a desire to enjoy being read to and eventually read stories for myself.
I don’t have many memories of learning to read at school, and no recollection of whether it was easy or hard for me. I do remember, however, enjoying being read to in preschool and early elementary years, soaking up all the silly stories and poems. At home we had a bookshelf full of children’s books. Some of my favorites were the Little Golden Books, The Poky Little Puppy being at the very top of my list, Scuffy the Tugboat and The Little Engine that Could followed closely behind. When I couldn’t read the words, the pictures told the story. My first and second grade teachers made writing a daily practice by asking students to write a journal entry each day. My mom collected the journals and kept them tucked away for me, and what fun they were to reflect on in my adult years!
Much later in junior high and high school, I found a new love for writing when I had the chance to write fictional stories for classes. In high school drama and video production classes I did a different type of writing by creating storyboards and scripts. While writing for these projects was fun to try, it was never a big grade winner for me and I decided that I far preferred reading over writing! Throughout my teen years I would relish walking through a bookstore, choosing a new story to read. Opening a book for the first time was heaven, smelling the fresh paper, reading those first few words of the first chapter, knowing that I was about to embark on a new adventure. Sometimes it was a character I knew well, like an old friend. Some were new to me, but I knew I loved them right away. I even dipped my toes into the nonfiction genre and grew an appreciation for documentaries, autobiographies, and stories of war. The Hiding Place and The Diary of Anne Frank led to a deep interest in the Holocaust that helped me produce an award- winning video documentary as a highschooler.
Now in my late 30’s, I’ve found myself with little time to read as a single mother of four who works full time. I crave sinking into a new book and getting lost in the story, but I know that this busy season of life won’t last forever, and a time will come when I can enjoy leisure reading again. My job as a Housing Navigator for a local nonprofit has required me to hone my writing skills as clear communication with clients is key and professional connections with landlords and community leaders is crucial to the advancement of my career. I’ve had the unique pleasure of falling in love with reading and writing again through watching my four children discover it for themselves. There’s a deep sense of joy when I catch a glimpse of my teen daughters while I walk past their room, deep in an adventure with their nose in a book. They will sit at the end of my bed and give an account of what the latest shock was in their story or come for a hug after the ending left them in tears. It amazes me how the written word can evoke such emotions, as if we are living the story. I also have experienced the gift of watching my six-year-old beaming from the stage while he was presented an award for excellence in reading during kindergarten. I hope he always has a hunger for reading. My preschooler wants to know everything there is to know about every new word he hears. It won’t be long before he’s reading on his own as well. Reading and writing have given depth and richness to my life. They have taught me how to imagine and dream, allowed me to love others well through my words and given me comfort through challenging times. In a world that is so consumed with screens and social media, I’m very glad to still feel a sense of relief in a poem or excerpt from a book. I hope to pass this love for the written word to my children and to their children as well.