Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Power of Words

It's been fun participating in River of Stones and committing to writing a small stone daily. Today, I'm using a long-ago post from my other blog, Live and Learn. I believe those of you who are readers and writers probably have similar stories from your childhood. Hopefully, those who are parents or mentors will share their love of words with children. Fostering a love of reading/writing is a gift that lasts forever.

Today's Stone:
This morning, I was thinking about books and reading. From the time I was a little girl, books were a lifeline for me and a window to a wider world. When I was very small, my father supplied made-up stories. I'd climb on his lap in the evenings before dinner, and he would begin to collect his thoughts with "Once upon a time..." He was a factory worker; he smelled of sweat and White Owl cigars.

Around the age of 4, he started taking me to the grocery store when he did the weekly grocery shopping. Since my parents both worked in factories, I think they were "enlightened" about the division of household labor long before it became a cultural phenomena. While he shopped in the tiny store, I'd park myself in front of the spiral, rotating, wire book shelf that held an offering of Golden Books. I'd carefully remove a book, look at the pictures, put it back, revolve the shelf, and remove another that caught my fancy. Too soon, my father would finish, and it was time for me to choose - he bought me a new Golden Book every Friday night. By the time I entered school when I was 6, I had quite a collection - a library of both Golden Books and comic books - though I didn't know the concept of "library" at that time.

I was already an avid reader when I entered first grade. School was a difficult transition for me. I was an introverted child who loved words and books. I was the only kid in first grade who could already read. In that once upon a time (1950), teachers taught from Basal Readers; you were not allowed to turn the page until the whole reading group took turns reading (excruciatingly slowly) through the small paragraph on each page. The books were of the Dick and Jane variety - not much going on except a game of ball with Spot. I was so bored that I began to feign sickness so I could stay home and do what I loved best - read. The teacher finally called my parents. The next day, my father stayed home from work to drive me to the front of the school. He gave me a pep talk about all I'd learn someday if I'd just stick it out. Since I thought he was always right (and I was prone to being a "good girl"), I never tried to play hooky again.

My father died suddenly when I was 9. Stories and books were the least of my mother's worries. Luckily, the seeds were already sown, so I could continue to blossom on my own. At that point, I knew how to use the power of imagination after thinking "once upon a time." I also knew that the words in books could save my life. They did.

My Grandchildren reading a book belonging to their Daddy 40 years ago


  1. A beautiful story Barb. It must have been hard on you loosing your father at such a young age. Thank God that the gift of reading saw you through.
    I still have a collection of golden books on a shelf upstairs. I was just thinking today about moving them as they don't get read anymore. My grandchildren have tons of their own books.
    Oh and by the way, I remember very well the Dick and Jane books! Love Di ♥

  2. What a great childhood memories. I remember the Golden Books. Unfortunately, I do not have my father's genes of reading. I studied English in the morning and Chinese in the afternoon, and it came to a point that when I was in high school, I was very lazy to study. Fortunately, Zee got those genes and the books were here constant companion. She even writes to authors and give short reviews and she gets freebies.

    Hehehehe, now if I read, I fall asleep.

  3. Hi Barb,
    Through your love of reading, you have also become a wonderful writer. You certainly inherited your father's imagination and gift for creating such imagery and emotion through words. I enjoy all of your posts...
    ...your pictures enhancing the power of your words.
    Your sweet father must be smiling ♥
    ps. My father also took care of the "big" grocery shopping day ... when he bought the extra large packages of everything.

  4. What a wonderful gift your father gave you.

  5. Sounds like you have an idyllic life in one of my favorite places in all the world!
    Be well,

  6. I was so touched by this. I too inherited a love of books and stories from my father, and at an early age when things went wrong I knew like you that books could save my life. But I have been lucky still to have my father (now 86). What a terrible loss you suffered at such a young age - I'm so glad you had the words in the books to see you through.

  7. I am very touched to read your childhood story.
    Your lovely father left you such a wonderful memory and gift for you.
    I am a non native English speaker. It is hard to write and structure one’s own thought in another language. However I always love to read your words.
    Since I was a very fragile girl while I was 6~7age, I was not able to go to school 1/3 of a year. I remember that reading the stories of Andersen and drawing pictures in my bed were my comforts. Thank you for the lovely post.
    *A healthy and active woman,Tomoko*

  8. Wonderful post, Barb. Your father was a great man to instill in you a love of books! I didn't come from a reading family but being an introvert like you I learned early to LOVE books too. Fortunately for me, I was allowed to ride my bike to the public library. (Parents didn't worry like they do now, did they?)

  9. That must have been so hard to have your dad die so young.
    My first grade teacher Mrs Claxton taught me to read and I've been reading every since. My mom was always yelling at me because I read when I was supposed to be doing chores.
    I remembering running down the hill from school the first day I started to learn to read. I ran all the way home yelling, I can read, I can read! :-)

  10. A wonderful stone for the end of the month, Barb, - and beautiful memories of the precious gift of reading and imagination that you were given. I have really enjoyed reading your contributions to the river, - as well as all your other vibrant postings!

  11. Barb, you're so marvelous--and so is this essay. And yes, I certainly have similar stories and memories. (In fact, my earliest memory is of lying in my crib, chewing on the spine of one of the Little Golden Books!) What a good man your dad must have been.

  12. Barb, I got tears in my eyes reading this--and hearing that your father died when you were nine. What a treasure he gave you! That love of stories and words and books. Blessings...

  13. A beautiful and touching story Barb. Your father's legacy shines on! I only recently started reading this blog and I will be catching up on your posts here.

    Just one comment on one tiny part of your story. I well remember agonizing as everybody in class caught up with Dick and Jane and (remember?) Baby Sally. I got in SUCH trouble with Sister Mary Veronica for skipping ahead. She told me if I did that again I'd have to go in the "sparrow" group (the poor kids who couldn't read at all). No worries about traumatizing kids for life back then. That Baby named Sally (she spelled her name wrong) caused me a lot of grief too!

    In spite of the odd teaching methods, we survived -- as I believe most people do when they have families who love them and read to them.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts.


Your comments are always one good thing for me!