Elementary School Provided Foundation

I have a confession to make.

When I was in elementary school, I didn’t like reading — books.

It’s the truth.

I went to Persell School, when it was an elementary school, in the 1970s. It was a great school. Ironically, Persell is where I fell in love with writing.

I should have loved reading as much, but I didn’t. And not for the reasons one would think. Back then, I thought reading was OK. I loved reading magazines, and newspapers because I knew how long an article was. In other words, the article could have been a few paragraphs or maybe a couple of pages.

But a book was full of chapters. The ending seemed so far away.

As Charlie Brown would say “Ugh!”

I was a very good reader, and I had no problem with comprehension. I guess I had to teach my mind how to be patient enough to read a book. That took a while.

In my adult life, it has been much different. I love reading.

I guess the difference was or is that I learned I could separate two things: reading for pleasure and reading for a grade.

When I was reading newspapers and magazines, I was reading for pleasure. I could finish the article I chose to read or not finish the article.

But with a book, it was different. I had to read so many pages, by a certain date. I felt constrained and pressured. What I learned though is that readers can interpret books in different ways. I didn’t learn that until college. In my younger years, I thought there was one interpretation of a book, and if one didn’t agree with it, then one was incorrect. When I learned about discussion groups, then my view changed. I was no longer burdened by the one book, one interpretation rule.

Know that if you should take a literature class in high school or college, and you are assigned to read a book and then write a response paper for the book, don’t be afraid to argue your interpretation. The clue is to use information from the book to support your thesis. And yes, you will probably have research articles, of which you will find to support your thesis. Your task is this: it is your job to find those articles. The task is not hard, but more time consuming.

I digress.

While reading magazines and newspapers at Persell School I also realized that someone had to create those articles. And that’s when I had a light bulb moment. I realized reading and writing were a duo. Sometimes each could stand alone, but they were more powerful as a twosome.

In fourth grade I was allowed to try writing in a different way. It was hard at first because I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was encouraged to continue. Because I was a good reader, I saw how sentences were constructed and words were used. I may not have totally understood the concepts back then, but the images were imprinted in my mind, and I knew I could recall the images at any time.

Fast forward now to my adult life, and I read virtually all the time. Of course part of reading is my job. I read and edit articles written by Post-Journal reporters and correspondents, and columnists. I read wire copy. I read press releases sent to the paper, and I also read a lot of email. And I also write my column and then I’ll write an entertainment feature story. And after I have completed those tasks, I will read for pleasure and also write for pleasure.

Even though I didn’t like reading back then, Persell gave me the foundation to love reading and writing.