This week I began my first days as a Master’s student. Typically, the first week’s assignments in online courses is a short assignment on the syllabus, and a forum post to introduce yourself to the class. One of my classes asked a unique introduction question that inspired me to think back on a pivotal moment in my life and I wanted to share that with you. The question was, “What was your first literacy moment?”. The post wanted us to think back to the earliest memory of a book having an important impact on our lives whether it was a children’s book read to us, or one we read ourselves when we were older. This is my story on how a book changed my life:
My first literacy moment happened in the fourth grade. I was placed in an Accelerated Learner Program that allowed me and a small group of eager learners to get together for an hour a day and work on projects that enhanced our other classes. Our small class really bonded over the first semester and the teacher decided to throw us a Christmas Party. In this class there was also a girl brand new to our school that I developed a crush on. I really wanted to impress her with a Christmas gift and thought long and hard about what to get her. The thing is, I don’t remember what I got her. I don’t remember what we talked about, why I liked her, and I don’t know what she is doing now. However, I remember the gift she gave me: a copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I first read the book as a way to impress her, but something happened shortly after that I had never done before: I read the book a second time. And then a third. Since then, I have read that same copy of The Hobbit dozens of times, and have read the entirely of The Lord of the Rings just as many. That book became a large part of my life. It showed me that a timid boy with an appetite and stubbornness like Bilbo’s could learn to sacrifice for others, go out on adventures, and have a grand time writing about it.
Now one other bit of magic that this book holds is that I like to physically read it. For the longest time and still today I do not enjoy sitting and staring at a book. My mind wanders and I progress at a snail’s pace. Two years ago I discovered Audible and my life changed. I now go through sixteen to twenty books a year and have rediscovered a passion for literature that had been lost on me since my grandmother passed n the sixth grade and no one was there to read to me anymore. Even she, a seventy-year-old woman raised in the cotton fields of Amite County, Mississippi enjoyed reading The Hobbit with me. I can still hear her country drawl telling me the story of “Beel-Bow” and “That Smug Dragon”.
This book has been responsible for a lot of my best memories. A good portion of who I am today and how I take in the media that I love was first shaped by this book. Even today when I need an escape, I am happy to go “there and back again…”