This week's BTT topic is about early reading: What is the first book you remember reading? What about the first that made you really love reading?
The first book I remember actually reading on my own (not a book that someone read to me) is probably My Little Red Story Book.
Called a "pre-primer," it was the first book in the Basic Reading Series published by Ginn back in the 1940s and '50s. It was a slim paper-bound book, and it was followed by two other pre-primers: My Little Green Story Book and My Little Blue Story Book. The books were similar to the Dick and Jane readers that so many people grew up with, except they featured Tom, Betty, and Susan (and, of course, Father, Mother, Flip, and Pony). If you went to school in Texas in the 1940s through the 1960s, you're probably familiar with that crew.
I'm not really going to get into the controversial aspects of these books. Yes, they were sexist, but so was the rest of life on the planet back then. But in general it's true that the males in the books were usually the ones shown doing things, while the females mostly sat around looking pretty (often in pink) and saying things like "See Tom run! Run fast, Tom!"
But they were great books, just the same. And while the stories weren't the most scintillating or inspiring, they did instill a love of reading simply by being my first real reading experience. Finishing My Little Red Story Book left me with possibly the greatest feeling of accomplishment I've ever had.
I think before I started school and got immersed in those primers and early readers, I thought of reading as a kind of magical knowledge that only adults and "big kids" were privy to. I knew that the printing on the pages of my books "meant" something: words, sentences, thoughts. But I remember being utterly fascinated by the mechanism of putting those different sounds – those letters of the alphabet – together in seemingly endless ways to form other sounds – words – that made up the stories I loved. And it was those Red-Green-and-Blue Story Books that really taught me how to do that.
So when I look around at these overloaded bookshelves, and think about the small fortune I've spent on books over the years, I know I have three rosy-cheeked culprits to blame. Tom! Betty! Susan! See Joy read!