Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Where the Love Came From

Miss Wornoski and her 31 little readers
That's me on the far right, second row.
With my eyes shut.
Sigh.
I love to read.
It started very early.
Grade one.
Miss Woronoski taught me.
I don't remember the mechanics of learning.
Only the sudden explosion of knowledge that came with recognizing series of letters strung together.
Miss Woronoski had a list of words on a large flip chart. And each of us in the class was taken, publicly, through it. I remember her pointing to each word with a long, slender stick and the victim participant having to then read it out.
A word about the stick. It was about three feet long, with a soft, squishy, plastic, cone-shaped tip. Tons of fun to play with when the teacher wasn't in the room.
Ahem . . .
Day by day, she worked her way around the room. Closer and closer to me.
Who would have guessed that panic was one of the subjects taught in the first grade?
Well, it was.
If I would have studied the chart, I would have realized that I could read every word on it.
But I didn't. I just glanced at it briefly with silent 'deer-in-the-headlights' terror.
Thus started a pattern in my life that has served me far too well.
But I digress . . .
Finally, it was my turn. Miss Woronoski looked at me. “Diane.”
Everything I had ever known simply . . . fled. Taking my blood and body temperature with it.
A now-frozen lump, I turned slowly and stared at her.
“Its your turn, dear,” she said softly.
Her words might as well have been: Ready! Aim! Fire!
I was about to die.
I swallowed.
And nodded.
The pointer was raised.
I watched as it moved.
Sooo slowly.
Tapped on the first word.
“And,” I said, shakily.
Next word.
“The.”
Next. Ooh, a toughie.
“Into.”
Next.
“For.”
And so it went.
Pointer . . . pointed.
I said the word.
Pointer moved on.
I was doing it!
The panic started to ebb.
With only one slight hesitation, on the unbelievably difficult word, 'house', I was done.
Faster than anyone.
Miss Woronoski smiled. “Very well done, Diane,” she said.
I had done it!
Celebrations were in order.
“Diane, sit down.”
Later.
She handed me my first. Real. Book. “Here, dear, read this,” she said.
And she moved on to the next student.
I stared at the book she had given me.
The Little White House.
There was a picture of a boy riding a horse on the cover.
We were instant friends.
I opened it and, for the first time began to read a story to myself.
Riveting tales of Tom, Betty and Susan as they:
  1. Helped their parents
  2. Got presents
  3. Rode Pony
  4. Played with Flip
The magic had begun.

There is a codicil . . .
My Husby and I were on a book-signing tour through the US.
We stopped at a tiny little restaurant in tiny-er Dell, Montana, called the Calf-A.
Exceptional food, especially the roast beef.
And pie to die for.
Sorry. Moving on . . .
The restaurant was housed in what had been the little country school.
The blackboards and even some of the pictures and furniture were still there.
On a shelf was a stack of old text books.
While waiting for my order, I wandered over and looked at them.
And there, right in the middle was my book.
My first book.
Just as I remembered it.
I dragged it out and hurried back to our table.
“Look!” I shoved it under my Husby's nose. “Look! It's my first book!
I sat down and opened the cover.
Instantly, I was transported back to my sunny classroom at Milk River Elementary.
To my seat beside the windows.
Right in front of the teacher's desk.
I could smell the chalk dust.
And see Miss Woronoski taking yet another student through her chart of words.
Paradise.
I had nearly read The Little White House through by the time our meal arrived.
Not a statement on how long it took to be served.
But rather on how quickly I could now read.
Thank you, Miss Woronoski.
You changed my life.

9 comments:

  1. Now you brought tears to my eyes! Oh, the memories - and the gift of reading! And now, YOU are the author bringing light and joy to others.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh yes. One of the very best gifts ever...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this. One of my cousins is a first grade teacher. She will love this, too. I wonder if any of her students grew up to be writers (or bloggers)?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lucky are they who are encourged to read, who are read to, and who love to read. Everything else in life will be easier for them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Precious memories. Grandma (my mom, my children's grandmother) taught me to read before i started school, using the Listen and Learn with Phonics program, which consisted of books and phonograph records played at 78rpm (remember those!). When she wasn't looking, i'd read and play ahead, i was so eager to learn and get to reading by myself.

    The first lesson was the names of the vowels, and the little boy who couldn't say the word, "Lady" so he said a-e, followed by i-o-u a cup of sugar! What a fun way to teach it, looking back.

    ReplyDelete
  6. reading is the best gift a child can get, I reminded my son that it is never too early to read to his children who are now ten weeks old.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love those full-circle moments in life. From tentative first reader to full-blown author. How great!... Laurie

    ReplyDelete
  8. I admit I used to be a much better reader than I am now as I get lost in all the TV content we have these days. But as a child I loved it. I remember liking Beverly Cleary quite a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The gift of a book is wonderful, the gift of being taught to read even more precious. My older sister Joni taught me to read before I started school. She had a strong voice and enunciated every word very clearly. She taught me to read, introduced me to the library and until her death, we shared a multitude of books and authors.

    ReplyDelete

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