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The treasure of a pirate tale


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In later grades, I would be transformed by the pathos and drama of plot, the nuances of word choice, and the ordered experience of the sentence and paragraph. In first grade, however, it was enough to simply feel the power of having the appearance of reading. Later, I would understand the work of my parents, both writers, and choose English as my undergraduate major in college and then a career teaching literature. For now, I could take simple pleasure in imitation of what I saw the grown-ups doing. I had joined the readers club.

On returning home from the bookstore, I reread my recovered reading treasure with indescribable joy. I was transported, shipwrecked again on the tropical island with Captain Jim and his crew, repairing the schooner's stoved-in starboard bow, diving to retrieve the chest of gold lost overboard, bombarding the pirate deckhands with hornets' nests, and even towing their boat away from them. "Find work and fun there on the land," says benevolent Captain Jim. "Your pirate days are over." What epic prose!

Some days I sided with the pirates. For even the nefarious pirates had a happy ending – that island would be a great place to be marooned.

"Mom! Dad! I can read now!" Our recollections of the beginning of literacy and our first books are powerful, resonant, and as deeply embedded in memory as a whiff of fresh-baked cookies at Grandma's house. The power of reading aloud; the power of being read to; the power of suggesting that words matter; the power of the ordered, linear experience of visual and verbal narrative is intellectual and emotional discovery itself. And with that recollection, we very often recall the voice of a teacher or parent, and a favorite opening line: "Once upon a time...." "The night Max wore his wolf suit…." And, for me, "It was a dark night." All true stories.


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