I was more excited that usual that day. I hurried through my bowl of oatmeal and was ready before my older brother to head out the door for school. I’d been in first grade for couple of weeks already, and was having fun with my new classmates, and my new teacher, Mrs. Green.
Hurry up, brother, I thought. Today’s a big day.
My brother and I headed down the street for the five blocks to school. I looked up to him --- a lot. He was one of those big middle-schoolers, and our schools were across the playground from each other. I’d see him during lunch sometimes, but he was too cool to wave. Still, I knew he looked after me, and the bigger kids in class knew that I had a big brother close by.
But, today, I had other things on my mind. Today, I was going to learn how to read! We’d been getting ready to read ever since the first day of school, and I was proud to show Mrs. Green that I knew the alphabet, and also my colors. Mom had been working with me on the alphabet and the colors for a few years, and last year, I made sure I knew all I needed to know in my kindergarten class so I could move up to first grade.
Now, I was a big boy, or so I thought, and I was ready to read! Mom and Dad, and even my brother took turns every night, reading a story to me at bed time, and, sometimes, even before dinner. I would help turn the pages, and I knew all the animals’ names in all the pictures, too. Mom had helped me pick out a word or two in the books, but said I should wait for Mrs. Green to really teach me how to read.
We had groups for our reading class at school. Some kids were bluebirds, and some were cardinals. But, I was a robin. I thought that was pretty exciting. One day, we even made paper hats for our groups, and I was pretty excited to bring home my robin hat last week and show everyone.
My brother rolled his eyes, and was going to make one of his smart alecky comments, but I guess Mom’s look at him when he started to open his mouth kept him quiet. I didn’t care what he thought, anyway. It was a neat looking hat and I was happy to be a robin. Nothing was going to get in the way for me to learn how to read!
We walked down the sidewalk, and I was skipping and hopping along. I’d brought my robin hat this morning, and clutched it next to me, not wanting to lose it. I had my lunch pail in my other hand, and I was swinging it along in time with the song I was humming.
My brother wasn’t nearly as giddy as I was. He was always a sleepyhead in the morning, and never responded much to my excitement about going to school. Especially this morning.
“What’s so big about learning to read?” he asked, just as I was about to launch into another hummed verse of one of my songs.
“It’s everything,” I exclaimed. “I’ve been waiting my whole life to read. Now, I’ll read the comics in the paper when I get home from school. I’ll be able to read all my books, all by myself, and I won’t have to wait for you or Mom or Dad to read to me.”
“Big deal, “ he said. “Learning to read will be easy for you. You’ve always got your nose in a book, anyway. Besides, you can read already.”
“I cannot,” I said, a little bit indignant. “Mom said I can’t learn to read until I got to first grade.”
“You read the road signs when we go for a drive,” my brother said. “And, you read some of the words on the milk carton and the cereal box. You read the labels on the records you play over and over again on your stupid little yellow record player.”
“Well, I can’t read a story. I can’t read books,” I said, getting a little angry at him. I wasn’t sure if he was teasing me, or what. “But, I will today. Mrs. Green said I would.”
“Big deal,” he grumped.
We were at my school already, and I skipped over to the door.
“You’ll see. I’m going to learn to read today!”
I could hardly wait for reading class. We had to work on our numbers first, and that took so long. Counting was easy for me, and I already knew my adding up to twenty. We were still working on adding up to ten, though, and I was getting more restless as we got close to the time for reading.
“Recess,” Mrs. Green announced.
I liked recess, and had fun playing baseball and foursquare. But, today, I was going to learn to read, and I wasn’t much interested in playing ball. I wanted to read a book! Still, we all marched out to the playground, and I got pretty excited to work my way up to the fourth square before I got “out”.
When we got back into our classroom, Mrs. Green was standing at her table with a big pile of new books. They had bright colors, and I could see there was a boy and a girl and a cat and a dog on the cover. The boy looked just like me, and he even had a baseball cap on, just like mine.
“Now, class, I am going to hand out your new reading books today. These are your very own books, so I expect you to take extra special care with them,” she said.
I was so excited. I was glad I’d gone to the bathroom on the way back from recess. I about jumped out of my seat when she handed me my very own book, my first reading book. She even winked at me when she handed it to me.
My very own reading book! I felt so grown up and big. I really was a first grader!
The book smelled so new. I’d always loved new books, and the best part of Christmas for me was opening a new book.
My aunt in Chicago always sent me a new book every Christmas, and I could hardly wait to open her big brown box of presents on Christmas Eve. I’d knew she’d always pack a new book in there, just for me. Last Christmas, she’d sent me Stuart Little. My Mom got tired of reading it to me, night after night, and finally, only Dad would read it to me anymore. This summer, my aunt had come to visit us, just like she did every summer, and she would read Stuart Little to me twice a day!
“Alright, class. Open your book to the first page,” Mrs. Green said, her voice quieting the room down. She was being serious, and so was I.
“Now, we are going to read the first word in your book. I’ll sound it out,” she said.
“L L L O O O O O K K K”
“This is an easy word to remember. When you look at something, you use your eyes. Your eyes are big circles, just like the letters ‘O’. ‘Look’ has two ‘O’s; two eyes. You use your eyes when you look.”
She put her hands over her face, making big circles over her eyes, with her fingers and her thumbs. Two big round ‘O’s.
“Now, let’ read this book together,” she said.
“Look,” we said. “Look, look.”
“Now, the third word there starts with “J”. The little girl’s name is Jane. Let’s all say ‘Jane’,” Mrs. Green said.
“Jane,” we chorused.
“Look. Look, Jane,” she said.
“Look. Look, Jane,” we responded.
I can read!! Yes, I really can read. Right here in my very own book. I can read a whole sentence!! I just about fell off my chair. Wow! This is easy. I can read!
I couldn’t wait to tell my brother, or my Mom or my Dad, too. I bet they’d be real proud of me when I told them what I did in school today. I wanted to run right home, yelling “Look, look” all the way.
I better see if I could call my aunt in Chicago, too. I bet she’s be proud of me, too. And, next time she comes to visit, I’ll read Stuart Little to her!