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... learning to read?  Can you recall that magical moment when a jumble of letters became "Honk! Honk! Quaaack!"?  

I remember.  

The book that changed my life, that helped make me a lifelong reader, was, of course, Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941).

My childhood home was full of books and my parents began reading to us long before we understood the stories. Alice, Black Beauty, Tiny Tim - even the Brothers Grimm - were our bedtime companions. On Sundays we would "read" the papers with Dad.

One Summer day, when I was four, I took my favorite picture books into the "fort" (actually a dead spot in the middle of the lilac shrubs). After Mom's repeated readings, I had memorized the stories, so I was "reading" when suddenly the words "Honk! Honk! Quaaack!" made sense! I was READING! I am not quite sure what I did after that, the memory is such a hot, white spot in my head that it seems to have burned the memories around it; but knowing the kind of child I was, I probably went running around the house waving the book in everyone's face and screaming, "I CAN READ!"

Even now, sixty-two years later, I find McCloskey's story and illustrations charming.  And I still have the book! I read it to my children, my grandchildren. When I had the privilege of being the "secret reader" for the grandkids first grade classes, this was the book I chose - and took along some pictures of the Boston sculpture by Nancy Schön.  The sculpture was created in 1987 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Public Garden (where Mr. and Mrs. Mallard raised the ducklings). I have visited the Public Garden with both children and grandchildren to see the ducklings.  We even did the very sentimental thing of reading the book while we were there!

Now I have sent a copy of the book to my oldest grandson. He has started reading to my one-year-old great-granddaughter (I wish I were doing that!). Perhaps her first reading awareness will be "Honk! Honk! Quaaack!"

So, tell me, do you remember?  

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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