Years ago, when I was a child of 7, my parents sent me away to a military school in Tennessee, and I was never taught how to read.
I dreaded getting up in class and being told to read out loud. The other children would laugh and make fun of me. I literally hated to read, and everything about books.
Both my parents were well-educated people and my mother held a master’s degree from Columbia Universtiy as well as being fluent in French after attending the Sorbonne in Paris, and she was a concert Pianist; however, she failed to teach her son to read.
The stigma was carried with me for the nine years in boarding school and college. Since reading was so important in college, I failed after my second year, and had to attend Fresno City College to bring my grades up if I wanted to graduate from Fresno State.
I switched my major to Math which I was very good at, and there was little or no reading. I returned to Fresno State, and after two years as a Math Major, the head of the department had me come into his office and he told me: “You have no serous interest in Math as a profession, but all you want is to graduate.”
He was right and I would have been a terrible Math teacher. My heart was not in it. I was, and always have been, a people person. Once again, I switched to Social Science and had the loads of reading.
Fortunately I had a wonderful boss when I worked nights at the Fresno Motel, and he said when I wasn’t busy I could read. It was the first time I can remember enjoying a book. It was a biography about a famous man and it was very graphic.
The writer brought that man to life, and I was hooked. I still am after I worked my way through the life of Winston Churchill and his days leading up to the second world war. The book took me all summer to read.
Unlike most people, my reading is so slow that I chew on words, and I like to get all the juice out of every word I use. It has lead me to become a newspaperman or a man of words. Finding just the right word has always meant so much to me.
I still do not know how to read fast, and I would like to somehow give the children of Merced County a way to learn how to read properly.
Because I feel very strongly that READING IS A GATEWAY TO THE MIND.