The First Book You "Read"

Alison Morris - February 28, 2008

Gareth and I recently had a conversation about the first books we memorized and could recite in full, believing ourselves to be actually "READING." His was Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell. Mine was One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.

Wondering if I could find entertaining evidence of contemporary kids confused on the same "memorizing vs. reading" point, I turned to… (where else?) YouTube. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but nevertheless unearthed a few relevant "faux reading" gems.

For starters, there’s a pretty fascinating, completely charming video of a 15 month-old "READING" One Morning in Maine, using no actual words — or at least, no words in the language of grown-ups. But boy does she get the cadence of speech right!

Six year-old Sasha does a pretty convincing act of reading one of the Rainbow Fairies books, but if you try to follow the story you’ll find she’s clearly making it up as she goes along.

A non-fiction book about trees gets pretty exciting in Susie’s "reading" of it. Trees with wings? Who knew.

What about you? What book did you believe you could "READ" before you could actually do so? Do tell.

24 thoughts on “The First Book You "Read"

  1. Mick

    Wow. One Fish is a long book. I read it to my 2-year-old last night and about fell asleep. Mine was The Berenstain Bears’ Bears in the Night. Scared my grandma–until she found out I couldn’t read anything else.

  2. Rebecca

    As an educator of preschool children, I was quite disheartened to read your post. The PRE-READING skill of memorizing is vital in a child’s journey to becoming a full reader. It is PART of reading and not a funny, cute separate thing. Please, show some respect for the process and for the people who spend countless, thankless hours making sure it happens.

  3. Andrea Beaty

    I think it’s a truly miraculous thing to follow a child as they pass through this pre-reading process and into the steps that follow. (With lots of guidance and help.) It is exciting, encouraging, and–yes–cute and funny to boot! It’s all that and a bag of chips! Personally, I remember pouring over GO DOG GO a million times until I knew it by heart. I raced through the text to get to the dog party at the end. Oh, the hours I spent trying to decide what I would do if invited to that party. Even now, I am torn between swinging, jumping on the trampoline, or shooting someone (my sister to be exact) out of the cannon. Choices, choices! Andrea Beaty

  4. Carterbham

    Rebecca–it didn’t seem to me that Alison was showing any disrespect regarding memorization. In her posts, she always come across as someone who is passionate not only about books, but for those who read them. It seems to me that this post is more about the fond remembrances of our first reading experiences. The moment when we loved the stories and pictures so much, we captured them in our memories. I am thankful for booksellers like Alison, the librarians out there, and teachers like you who recognize the power of books and want to share that love of reading with children.

  5. ShelfTalker

    Rebecca, In NO way did I mean to suggest that memorizing books was unimportant to the process of reading, and in NO way did I intend to belittle the efforts of the hardworking professionals (and parents) who are guiding children through that process. The opposite is true, on both counts. I LOVE that kids like the ones in the videos I linked to are so keen to become readers that they mimic the rhythms and behaviors of “reading” before they grasp the concept of sounding out words or recognizing them by sight. I intended to show my enthusiasm for this step of the process and am surprised to learn that it somehow came across to you as condescension. I wouldn’t have devoted 10 years of my career to helping kids become readers if I believed that the sight of them pre-reading (or “reading” as you point out) was just “funny” and “cute.” And I wouldn’t have completed my own teaching certification prior to that if I thought the work of educators was either easy or unimportant. Truly, Rebecca, I meant no disrespect and am sorry if it seemed otherwise.

  6. Loves to Read

    The first book I could “read” was also One Fish, Two Fish! How funny. I can still recite a good bit of it, so those skills really stick with you. I love that book to this day.

  7. writeroffthlake

    I never “read” any books off by heart. But I do remember a large book of 365 animal stories. There were only two stories in it about horses. I didn’t like the one and the other I was bored with, since I’d had it read to me a lot. That’s when I decided that I wanted to write. But I was only four, not yet in kindergarten, and figured out that to write I’d have to learn to read first. I anxiously waited for first grade, learned to read quickly and easily, and started deconstructing all the fiction I read (which was everything from Steinbeck’s THE RED PONY at 7, to FANNY HILL at the age of 8!). I did that for years, never knowing until I really started writing fiction that it’s a recommended way of learning to structure fiction. No wonder I never had problems with viewpoint, flashbacks, foreshadowing an characterization. The books that most influenced me were the MOUNTAIN PONY series by Henry V. Larom. I started reading them when I was 8 and that’s when I knew for sure that some day I’d write a “horse story”. Since then I’ve written, published and sold many “horse stories”.

  8. Sarah

    Frog and Toad are Friends. I completely fooled the teacher of the new class I transferred into–she thought I could really read it, and put me in a reading group with skills WAY beyond my own.

  9. Elizabeth

    Alison, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish is also my first memory of reading by myself. Loved it, ate it, breathed it. You’re the only person I know who also has that as her first solo book (at least, that I remember). Pink ink!

  10. D

    No recollection, but I did believe I could write when I was quite young and my mother’s haus frau cookbook is riddled with circles and symbols in crayon that I’m certain represents brilliant prose.

  11. laurake

    Daddy is home! Daddy is home! DADDY IS HOME! Look, Mother, Daddy is home! “I brough you a surprise children, look in my pockets!” “Where daddy, where?” “oh, here, look, a surprise! Thank you Daddy thank you! We love you daddy!” The first book I could “read” was a short story in a first-grade reader from the school my Grandmother taught at. It was followed by other short stories I could “read,” but this one somehow stays with me. I was really young when I started to “read” because I started “reading” along with my brother who is three years older than me. I am now 22 and going to college to hopefully work in a publishing company and – hopefully! – read the rest of my life!

  12. jen fos

    I was so glad to see someone else post “Whose Mouse are You?” – that was my whole families. I even remember that I brought it into my kindergarten class and “read” it for them. I even knew just when to turn the pages… Jen


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