Early one morning, I sat hidden under a card table in our den. On one wall near the table was a cabinet where I kept my things: books, papers, crayons and my dolls. I leaned against the open cabinet, and looked at a book my father had given me. It was the beginning of summer and my brothers and my sister and I had each received a book. Mine was Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne, a book of children’s poems. I, too, was six. I had just finished Kindergarten and I was still learning to read. The words in this book were too hard for me. I didn’t like to read. I wasn’t a reader the way my sister was, but I pretended an interest, knowing I should. All through Kindergarten, I memorized the words to books that were read to me. I pretended to read these books out loud, pausing where I thought I should, turning the pages the way I had seen my parents and my teacher do. I wasn’t sure if anyone knew what I was doing. I didn’t want to think about my secret.
I looked at the pictures of Christopher Robin, Pooh and his friends and I tried to match what I saw with the words on the pages. Still too hard. I didn’t know how I could possibly read this or any other book. I did not think it would happen. I felt a pressure inside me and wondered how in first grade I could continue to keep memorizing the words to books I hadn’t yet seen or heard.
My father came into the den. He was dressed in his suit and ready for work. He knelt down next to me and smiled. “Oh, it’s Pooh Bear,” he said in a gentle, quiet voice. “Do you like your book?” he asked. I answered yes – it was the truth. I did like the feel of the book, the smell of the pages, the way the binding was still tight when I held it. I liked that he gave me a book about someone who was six, just like me. “We can read this together when I get home tonight,” he offered. I pushed back the embarrassment of not knowing the words inside the book. I only felt the warmth of his gift and the chance to sit on my father’s lap, for I was still young enough for that, and listen to him read me the poems from the Hundred Acre Wood.
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