The school year was 1957-1958. I was in third grade and struggling to read the Dick and Jane series of books by Addison-Wesley Publishers. Reading this series with Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff and Spot was ‘de rigueur‘ if you were a student in the 50’s. The teacher I had that year was Mrs. Clayton; a sweet, white-haired lady who was the epitome of the 50’s schoolmarm. She was worried about me because I struggled so hard with those books. After a parent-teacher conference it was decided that I should be placed in a ‘special’ reading group with children who were learning disabled. I soldiered on in that special class that entire year. Looking back it was fun to be let out of class and sit with children I saw only on the playground at lunchtime. What wasn’t fun was sitting with Mom at night while she cajoled, threatened and pleaded with me to read: See Dick run. See Spot run. I wouldn’t cooperate and by June of 1958 I was a B+ student with a D in reading.
That summer Mom decided that if she could get me into the town library and the picture book section she might be able to help me learn to read. So off we went to the big white building on 10th Avenue in Belmar that housed the town’s collection of books. The librarian and she had a little tete a tete and sent me off to the picture books which oddly, did not interest me in the least. I wandered over into the young reader’s section and picked out an ochre colored book with the letters P i n o c c h i o across the front. I would NOT leave that library without that book and refused to even consider checking out a picture book. Oh, did I mention that I was determined or as my Mother would have said were she given to strong language; a stubborn pain in the ass? So I got a library card and checked out that old, dusty book with the woodcut images inside. 50+ years later I have no idea why I was so attracted to that book but it was a pivotal moment in my life.
Two weeks went by and it was time to go back to the library for a new book. I arrived carrying Pinocchio, that amazing and wonderful book I had browsed through repeatedly during the days it was in my possession…I really hated to part with it. The library vestibule was all windows and I could see Mrs. Librarian up on her high stool behind the desk. I proudly walked over to put Pinocchio on the ‘returned books’ side of the counter when she stopped me and asked if I had read every page. Now, to be honest with you I have told lies in my life. Some of them whoppers but most of them little white ones. But as I stood there with the librarian looking down her nose at me and demanding the truth, my mouth would not cooperate with the lie I so desperately wanted to tell. So instead I told her “No” I had not read it but had enjoyed the pictures tremendously. “I’m sorry”, she said, “I can’t allow you to take out another book”. Oh no!…my heart was crushed! I had just discovered the delicious scent and feel of real books and now I couldn’t take out another one? “Please”, I asked in that little girl voice that had always worked for me. “No, you can’t take out another book but I’ll make you a deal”, said she. “You can take Pinocchio out for another two weeks but when you return it, I want a full verbal report of what you’ve read. And there will be questions”!
I consider that woman to be a saint or something close to it because in that moment she changed the course of my life. She had given me a goal to attain and I was never one to back down so I accepted the challenge. Back home Pinocchio went with me. I hunkered down in the shady part of our summer porch to learn how to read it. I was determined! It was certainly no Dick and Jane book and it was fascinating!! I’m not sure I understood every word I read, but read it I did and not in two weeks time, but in just a few days. In those few days a world I had no idea existed opened up for me and I learned to dream with eyes wide open!
This hook-up to Texture Tuesdays at Kim Klassen’s Cafe shows what continues to consumer most of my free time.
Since this TT is all about the black and the white below is another version with color removed.
For more black and white images textured with Kim’s amazing overlays pop over here: