Best Beginnings

“There is no beginning too small.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Currently on my nightstand  ... some on loan from friends. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Currently on my nightstand … some on loan from friends.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My best beginning is steeped in words and was the best beginning twice: once as a little girl and once as a parent.

My reading journey began with trepidation … halting steps.

Picture an awkward first grader, uncomfortable in her skin early in life, already different because of the color of her skin and body type. I wanted nothing more than to fit in, to be “normal”.

The youngest child in my family who was replaced as such by a surprise baby sister, school was the environment where I could be myself and where I was most alive.

One challenge … academically I struggled. Often I was in the lowest levels of each subject: math, writing, reading. I didn’t care much about math but reading made an impression.

Life in the late 70s and early 80s wasn’t like today. Few people sent their kids to school knowing how to count to one hundred or read by sight. Back in those days reading went hand in hand with phonics.

It’s no wonder that I was “behind”.

There were lots of books in my home but they were mostly adult reads. Both my parents were insatiable readers but I don’t have memories of mom and dad reading to me, although they talk about doing so.

I was frustrated watching my friends and mortal enemies (as if that exists at 7) dive into more complex books than See Spot Run or Dick and Jane. They were growing their skills and vocabulary, sounding out words and counting syllables with fists striking tabletops. All my words were short single beats.

Devastated to find out I wasn’t equal, that I work to do, that I didn’t fit in, it was a heartbreaking time.

You’re wondering how this could possibly be the best beginning?

Well, it forced me to fight for written words. Envy drove me to become the best reader in my peer group instead of the worst. And in the process I fell in love with language, with literature.

Now I experience the world in words similar to conversation bubbles in comics and cartoons. (There’s a book, A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, that I am dying to read because the description of how Felicity views the world feels like how I see it.)

Words and stories and books are how I fit in.

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Round one of in my two part best beginning saga put me on the path of a life long love affair with great stories. Round two is less “hero’s journey” and more practical but no less tied for best.

Looking back at the initial trauma I lived through made me determined that my dudes would have a better tale to tell.

Their reading journey is my second trip to unlocking the wonder of words. It’s a personal mission. Even though it shares the title of best there is something sweeter about walking through it with my boys.

From board books to picture books and from comic books to chapter books and even eBooks to audio books, my boys have fallen in love with the power of stories. And it’s the only gift I felt qualified to give them.

What a rewarding opportunity to observe:

  • Stillness because they’re lost in another world.
  • Peels of laughter that is private joke between them and the pages.
  • Vocabulary beyond their ages and catches me off guard.
  • Expressions of sadness or anger that result in books being thrown down.
  • Conversations that start with “Mom you have to read this because…” Followed by a plot summary or character analysis (and they don’t know that’s what they’re doing).

At ages nine and seven, they own more books than I did when I was old enough to work full time and buy my own. Plus we take advantage of the local library and visit our local bookstores. Another joy is borrowing and loaning books to friends. This summer I hope to facilitate a “book club” experience for them and our small group buddies.

Readers surround them. They believe that readers are leaders.

How wonderful it is to have their reading origins shape their interests. My nine year old is planning a future as a comic book writer and illustrator. His seven-year-old little brother is a fledgling filmmaker.

I pray that this reading life is worthy of best beginning in their estimation. May storytelling stay in their blood. May they bring to words to life for others. May they continue the legacy of reading being the best beginning, twice.

What about you? What are your thoughts on beginnings? What is your BEST beginning?

 NOTE: This was a reflective journal exercise for me. Thanks to Lisa Sonora for sharing her 30-Day ROOT Journal Project with the world. And thank you to Stephanie at Visible and Real for writing the post that led me to Lisa.


  1. Your dudes are so lucky, Miss Gail! I love their artistic career leanings, already. That is awesome!

    So cool to share something so personal of yours. I love that you said: “Well, it forced me to fight for written words.” Beautiful that you grew from that time and continue to share your love with words not only with your boys, but all of us as well.

  2. What a beautiful gift you are giving your boys, Gail. This is such a moving piece. I’ve been told that, as adults, we are drawn to what we struggled with as children, and the fact that you are now drawn to the written word seems to confirm this.

  3. Philomena Hanson says:

    Gail- you are so qualified to give them the gift of reading. And it’s only one of the gifts you’ve given them. They’re blessed to have you for their Mother.

    Sent from my iPad


  4. That’s so great that your kids are planning writing and film making careers. This really shows how important it is to encourage reading, especially because it involves thinking and talking with you about those stories. Your photo reminds me of the stacks of comics my brother and I would always bring on any car trip.

    • Thanks Sheila! I am excited about their career choices. I hope that the desire and idea stay with them a long time. Right now I am looking for local camps/activities that will help me cultivate their writing and movie making skills. Comics are a must in our house. The boys love them. Were your comics about superheroes?

      • Yes but then we also had some strange ones like Richie Rich and Bugs Bunny type characters. They’d come in a pack of three and you never knew what the middle book would be so that added some excitement to the whole thing.

      • I remember reading Archie comics and Mad comics. But that was it. But it would have been more fun to unwrap a surprise copy of a comic that maybe I wouldn’t have picked. 🙂

  5. This is *awesome*! Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Lovely story Gail. I fear too many parents these days care little about ensuring their children are encouraged to read outside of school hours. And these days, without positive encouragement, there are too many easy distractions.

    • Thanks Roy. There are a lot of distractions. It’s hard to balance screen time and non-school reading. Hopefully, they’ll love good stories enough to where they’ll learn to balance it on there own.


  1. […] could I see the importance of raising readers as a response to my personal history described in a recent post, yet overlook this distinction in […]

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