My very favorite part in my very favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is when Scout goes to first grade and it is discovered by her teacher, Miss Caroline, that she can read.
“Now you tell your father not to teach you any more. It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I’ll take over from here and try to undo the damage.”
“I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime. I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers. In the long hours of church – was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able to read hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’ moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings of my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills to Be Enacted into Laws, the diaries of Lorenzo Dow – anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
I can recite the passage by heart, I love it so much. I want that for every kid.
I thought about that passage last night when we took Coby to the Gospel Singing at Port Bolivar Baptist Church. He was the only kid there (in fact, he looked around and asked me in a whisper, “is this a church for only grandparents?”). I watched his little finger move along the lines of the hymnal and thought of Scout. “One does not love breathing.”
(My literacy coach friends would say that’s a text-to-life connection. I just say that it’s magic.)