Books and the Learned Life

Since I was very small, school has always captured my imagination.

Before I was old enough to attend, I dreamed about rooms filled with books, anticipated learning to read those books, to pile them high on my tiny desk. I fantasized about learning so much that my head would explode with knowledge, things I could tell to my parents who waited patiently at home for me to come and enlighten their dark world with my newfound wisdom.

Whenever you have such high expectations for an experience, the reality is usually a disappointment. My early school days definitely were. In the 1960’s, kindergarten classrooms were mostly glorified playgrounds. Oh, there were  books, but rarely were they placed in my hot little hands. Instead, the teacher would seat us in a wide circle on the floor and read the book to us, holding it up far from the reach of my itchy fingers, waving it in a slow panorama before our faces so we each had a few seconds to gaze upon the picture.

So I bided my time and waited for first grade, which was marginally better, but not much. The classroom was full – well over 35 students – and the teacher rather old, or so it seemed to me. When I tried to explain to her that I already knew all the words in the Bluebirds reading group reader, she brushed me aside with a fond smile and turned her attention to those in the group who had yet to grasp the concept of reading with the gusto I had discovered at least three years earlier.

Later in the year, though, she did me a tremendous favor. Perhaps she was tired of seeing my little face staring at her, my reading comprehension workbook completed and turned in long before everyone else’s. Perhaps she took pity on me in my obvious and uncomfortable boredom. For whatever reason, she alighted upon the one thing that made the rest of elementary school bearable for me.

She sent me to the library.

Because of the library, I began to love school. I came out of my shell, I made friends – both bookish and not so very – and finally learned to love education.

Not every child is so lucky. And today’s educational world is quite different from the laid back 60’s and 70’s when I was coming up. It seems children are pressured toward higher education at younger and younger ages. Required classes multiply yearly, so that high school schedules are so full there is no time for those subjects deemed “extras” – music or art or theater.

A college education is a wonderful thing. But I’m not convinced every child that goes to college should be going – or at least, not yet. There’s nothing wrong with starting out easy in terms of higher eduction – a place like Miami community college, for instance. It would be nice if there were more opportunities for young people to attend good trade or technical schools where they could learn viable skills and start to make their way in the world. A four-year degree is always an option for the future.

The adult world is filled with enough pressure as it is. I wish young people had more time to enjoy learning for the sake of learning, to explore what higher education has to offer in a less competitive, aggressive environment (such as Miami community college) instead of a large university.

More time to go to the library and lose themselves in the bookstacks.




4 thoughts on “Books and the Learned Life

  1. I can’t believe you remember your childhood so well! I recall nothing about reading at that young age. But I agree…learning for the sake of learning. Something I am only able to do now that my ‘real’ education is over and paid for.

  2. I too went to kindergarten in the 60’s and the teacher was so upset with my mother because I could read “what am I suppose to do with her”. Fortunately I fared better in first, they just kept moving me through the reading curriculum at my own pace.

    However, the librarian I had in elementary school was so inspiring that I remember my first meeting with her so vividly.

    Thank you for a great post.

  3. I had a similar experience- learned to read before kindergarten and when the teacher saw how bored I was during the lessons on reading, she just sent me to the library where I could choose my own books. It was marvelous.

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