Tag Archives: Reading

One Word I Cannot Stand To Hear

I love the English language. And I’m fairly certain that I can say the same for anyone who loves to write as much as I do. There’s just something about the ability of being able to string words together to form sentences and putting sentences together to form paragraphs and then to arrange those very same paragraphs so that they form a story that has always thrilled me.

I can still remember the sense of wonder and excitement I felt when I first began to learn how to read. It seemed almost magical to me – that the books I read had the ability to transport me into other people’s lives, different lands and adventures beyond my imagination. It was as though I had unlocked a door to a whole new world and once I stepped through that door, I never wanted to leave.

Because of my love for reading, I must admit that I was a good student, especially when it came to the subject of English. I enjoyed learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, predicates, adverbs, etc. I think I have a fairly good command of the correct usage of the language, although I must admit that sometimes I do get hung up on our friend the “comma” and I do tend to use more commas than I should!

I also must tell you that when our children were growing up, I did correct them on their proper use of the English language. And I am proud to say that today they are very well-spoken young adults.

So, what word would I permanently ban from general usage? Well, let me say that there is one word that you would have never heard spoken in our household. As a matter of fact, I even hesitate to type it, but I will, for the sake of this writing, and that is the word “ain’t”. How I abhor that word. As a matter of fact, every time I hear someone utter that word, it makes my toes cringe. I’ve even heard people say things like “I ain’t got no time to do that.” And I think, “There’s that awful word – and a double negative with it! My poor ears!”

This word is supposedly a contraction for “am not,” “are not,” or “is not,” but its usage is generally considered non-standard by dictionaries and style guides except when used for rhetorical effect, and it is rarely found in formal written works. There’s a reason for a that. Because it is non-standard. There is absolutely no reason to use this word. We have words like “aren’t” and “isn’t” instead. We don’t need to use the word “ain’t.”

Now I realize that there have been some exceptions throughout history that have used this word quite successfully. There have been famous recordings such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” but these are examples of song lyrics, not everyday language. This word has also been used in both speech and writing to catch attention and to give emphasis, as in “Ain’t that a crying shame,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But the above examples are exceptions to the rule, not the norm.

Now let’s get back to that last phrase: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In this case – why don’t we fix it? Let’s just eliminate this one word from the English language. It’s such a lovely language. Why don’t we keep it that way?

 

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Red-Letter Saturday #4: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

RED-LETTER SATURDAY #4:alice in wonderland book 1

On this day, August 2, 1865, Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story was written by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) three years after he and Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat up the River Thames on July 4, 1862. They accompanied three young daughters of Henry Liddell: Lorina, Edith, and Alice. During the trip, they told the girls a story about a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day (under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll), although that earliest version no longer exists. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice. In November he began working on the manuscript in earnest.

 


 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or Alice in Wonderland, has been delighting children all over the world for decades. As a matter of fact, besides English, the book has been translated into 60 different languages. Indeed, this is a testament to the popularity of this classic tale. And it really is no wonder (no pun intended, but isn’t it wonderful how nicely that worked out) when you take into consideration the fact that the tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

bookmobile8I remember the first time that I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was twelve, and the librarian who was in charge of our bookmobile, Miss Marge, had recommended that I read this book. Miss Marge always knew which books I would enjoy reading, and she was never wrong. I can even recall hurrying home from the bookmobile with my new book, anxious to begin a new adventure. I was the ultimate bookworm in those days. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what my mother used to call me – a bookworm. I was proud of that title because I loved to read. Reading opened the doors to a whole new world filled with exciting adventures and amazing characters. I could never get enough of reading, and to this very day, I am still an avid reader.alice in wonderland

So I began to read the story about a girl named Alice sitting on the river bank with her sister. Alice was described by Lewis Carroll as “loving and gentle,” “courteous to all,” “trustful,” and “wildly curious.” She was constantly correcting the rude characters of Wonderland when it came to matters of manners and etiquette. Soon this girl named Alice was growing bored and beginning to lose interest in reading her sister’s book. As soon as I read the part about Alice encountering the White Rabbit who was obsessing about being late and eventually following him down the rabbit hole, I was hooked!  

white rabbit 1And the White Rabbit really intrigued me. I’m really not sure why, but perhaps it was because he was the first character whom Alice encountered, so he immediately piqued my curiosity. I also loved the description of him. He had pink eyes, was wearing a waistcoat, and holding a pocket watch. He is so frantic, so panicked and so worried about the time, exclaiming: “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!” and this reminds me of myself, actually. Oh, it’s not because I’m late all the time – quite the contrary – I’m usually always early. I’m such a stickler for punctuality, so I guess I can relate to him.

So Alice follows the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, and before she knows it, the strangest things begin to happen to her. After drinking mysterious concoctions, eating cake, picking up a fan, and eating parts of a mushroom, she shrinks, then grows bigger, shrinks, then grows bigger again. In my opinion, I thought she was terribly brave to do all those things. Oh, the wonder of it all! Oops – I guess that’s another pun, isn’t it? Funny how that word keeps popping up. Anyway, that’s when Alice’s adventures in Wonderland really begins.

There were so many other delightful characters that Alice meets along the way during her journey through Wonderland. I remember how fascinated I was by each one of them because every single one was special in their own unique way.
 
As I read through the story for the first time, I tried to conjure up an image of them in my imagination, marveling at the wonderful (another pun – sorry, just can’t seem to help it) plot, images, and storylines.alice in wonderland characters stripWho could forget the Caterpillar who sits on top of a mushroom while smoking his hookah? I didn’t even know what a hookah was until I read this story. He’s a very rude caterpillar and treats Alice with contempt.
 
Then she meets the Mad Hatter who’s very impolite and who’s always having tea. It seems as though there’s nothing he enjoys more than frustrating Alice.
 
One of my favorite characters is the Cheshire Cat. I think I enjoyed him because he was always grinning and because he seemed to be a bit mysterious, disappearing at will.  He’s the one who tried to explain the madness of Wonderland to Alice. At least he tried to be helpful.
 
And let’s not forget the infamous Queen of Hearts. She is the ruler of Wonderland, and is continually screaming for her subjects to be beheaded. To be entirely truthful, she sort of gave me the chills. I was always afraid for Alice because of her – afraid that Alice might lose her life because of the Queen.
 
Oh, yes. The day that Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he was in fact providing generations of children with the pleasure of entering into their own wonderland full of amazing characters and marvelous adventures. All you need to do to enter into that wonderland is to open the book and begin reading.
 
What a wonderful gift he gave us! Thank you, Lewis.

 QUOTE OF THE DAY:  Alice: “Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to end up.” ~ Lewis Carroll from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

red letter saturday 2

 

 

This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, click here:

Red-Letter Saturday

 

I Love to Read

I will never forget how excited I was when I learned how to read. Reading presented a whole new world to me.  All I needed was to open a book and I could be transported to another time, anotherreading books place, another event – or I could be someone else instead of just me.  Not only was reading the most valuable lesson for me, it was also the most rewarding.  I became a bookworm (as my mother called me).  I would read everything I could get my hands on — from the backs of cereal boxes to the book of fairy tales my aunt had given me for Christmas.  I had discovered a very special world — the world of reading. It was as though a whole new world had just opened its golden doors to me. All I had to do was step through those doors and once I did, I never wanted to return.

But to choose just three fictional events or adventures to experience myself? Now that is going to be a difficult choice, because there have been so many that I have enjoyed throughout the years! Let’s see…

cinderella 1The first one may sound silly, but whenever I think about this story, it brings back such wonderful memories of my childhood, and who doesn’t enjoy a trip back to the days when they were young and carefree? So I will choose my all-time favorite fairy tale: Cinderella. I have loved the story of Cinderella ever since I can remember, with the fairy tale featuring Cinderella, a wicked step mother and step sisters, a fairy godmother, magical transformations, a missing glass slipper, and a hunt by a prince for the owner of the glass slipper. I love Cinderella because she had a good work ethic. And she believed that if she worked very hard, someday she would receive the good things in life, meaning of course, her Prince.

The second adventure I would choose would be The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. When I read this story as a young girl, I wondered what it wizard of ozwould be like to go on such an adventure, to suddenly find myself in the land of Oz, with its Munchkins and witches and scarecrows that could talk. Granted, some of her adventures were scary, but most of it seemed wondrous to me. I read this book before I viewed the movie on television, and then when they televised the movie, it became even more magical to me because then I could picture it even more vividly. Every now and then I view this movie with my grown daughters, and when I do, it transports me back to the time when I was a young girl, filled with wonder and awe at the idea of such a place called the land of Oz.

The third fictional story that I would choose would be the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura little house on the prairieIngalls Wilder. When I was in the third grade, our neighborhood was chosen to have the bookmobile come to our area. Never heard of it? Let me tell you about it. The bookmobile resembled a big bus; but instead of seats, it had shelves – shelves and shelves of wonderful books. I will never forget the librarian in charge. Her name was Miss Marge. She was tall and thin, with short, curly black hair and golden brown eyes framed by a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. She had a low-pitched voice and spoke softly and kindly to everyone. I took an instant liking to her. She’s the one who introduced me to the Little House on the Prairie series. There are nine books in the series and they center around Laura Ingalls Wilder, her family, and their life as homesteaders in the 1800s. I think I enjoyed this series of books because at the time I read it, I was in the same age group as the protagonist (Laura), and I could identify with her. I enjoyed many of her adventures, and I also loved to imagine what it would have been like to live as a pioneer.

I believe that reading is a very special gift. It is a gift which every person should be given. It is a gift which will always remain with you, and no one can ever take this gift away from you. When you open a book, you can go to places you’ve never been to before, do things you’ve always wanted to do, meet people you’ve always wanted to meet, and, for a little while, get away and forget about your cares and troubles. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a good book.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”  ~Joseph Addison

 

 

The Librarian and the Bookmobile

 I have very special memories of first grade.  What I remember the most about this time is it was the year I learned to read.  Learning the alphabet was exciting in itself; but then the magic began.  I learned how to put those letters together and form words.  This meant, of course, that I could read; and there was nothing better — at least not in my book! (please excuse the pun)

Reading presented a whole new world to me.  All I needed was to open a book and I could be transported to another time, another place, another event – or I could be someone else instead of just me.  Not only was reading the most valuable lesson for me, it was also the most rewarding.  I became a bookworm (as my mother called me).  I would read everything I could get my hands on — from the backs of cereal boxes to the book of fairy tales my aunt had given me for Christmas.  I had discovered a very special world — the world of reading.


Our family lived in a low-income housing unit.  My father was disabled from working and my mother had seven children to care for.  We did not have a car – we took the city bus everywhere, including to church.  My problem was I had no way to get to the downtown library.  My mother would not allow me to ride the bus alone, and everyone else was too busy to take me to the library.  I was sad —  no library — no books — no reading.  I had an ardent desire to read, but there were no books to read – except at school.  I fervently wished there was a library in our neighborhood.

Another two years passed and then my wish became a reality. Our neighborhood was chosen to have the bookmobile come to our area.  Never heard of it?  Let me tell you about it. The bookmobile resembled a big bus; but instead of seats, it had shelves – shelves and shelves of wonderful books. I felt I was the luckiest girl in the world because the bookmobile was coming to my neighborhood.

Once school was out for the summer, the bookmobile would arrive on Wednesday of the next week.  I could hardly wait! When Wednesday arrived, my mother brought me and my little sisters to the bookmobile.  We walked three blocks to  where the bookmobile was parked.  I could hardly contain my excitement.  Then we arrived, and there it was – big and shiny and white.  By the looks of it, this bookmobile was brand-new.  There was a line full of children and their mothers waiting to go inside the bookmobile, We took our place at the back of the line, and I anxiously awaited our turn. It seemed to take forever.  Finally it was our turn to go inside.  I was so excited that I stumbled on the top step.  If not for my mother catching me at the last minute, I would have tumbled out of the bookmobile and onto the ground.

We were greeted by the librarian, who introduced herself to us as Miss Marge.  She was tall and thin, with short, curly black hair.  But what I remember most about her is her eyes.  They were golden brown and were framed by a pair of wire-rimmed glasses.  I took an immediate liking to her.  She had a low-pitched voice and spoke softly and kindly.

“Hello dear – what is your name?”  she asked me.

“My name’s Cindy,” I replied.

“What grade are you in, Cindy?”

“I just finished the third grade,” I announced proudly.

“Are those your sisters?” she asked as she pointed to my little sisters.

“Yes,” I nodded.  “They are my little sisters – I have two big sisters, too.”

“Hmm .. I think I have just the book for you,” she said.  “Come with me.” Her eyes twinkled as though she were keeping a secret.

I followed her down the narrow aisle toward the back of the bookmobile.  She stopped at the second to the last shelf and removed a book from it.

“Here you go,” she said as she smiled at me.  I looked down at the cover of the book and read the title: Little Women. by Louisa May Alcott.

Cover of "Little Women (Unabridged Classi...

Cover of Little Women (Unabridged Classics)

As I opened the cover she said, “It’s a wonderful story about four sisters and their mother and father.”

“Really?” I answered.

“Yes,” she nodded her head, “This is just the book for you.  I think you will  enjoy it.  Let’s go back to the desk and check it out for you.  Do you have a library card?”she asked.

“No,” I replied as I shook my head.

“That’s okay.  We will make you a brand-new a library card.”

I followed her back to the front of the bookmobile and waited as she sat down behind the desk.  She asked for the rest of my information so she could prepare the card.  As she was doing this, I read the first page of the book and I knew it was going to be a wonderful story.  As I was turning to the second page, she handed me the library card.

I held the card tightly in my hand, as though it was a special key — and indeed it was — the key to acquiring  more books!

“When you finish reading this book, then come back next week and you may check out another book,” she smiled at me.

“Thank you,” I grinned. I was filled with so much happiness I thought my heart would burst.

My mother and three younger sisters were still in the back of the bookmobile, looking at books for kindergartners and preschoolers.  As I waited for them, I read three more pages and by then, I was lost in another world.  At last my mother and sisters finished.  I could hardly wait to get home so I could read more.

I think I skipped all the way home.  I held my book close to my chest, as though it were a precious treasure I had just found and did not want to lose.  When we arrived at our house, I immediately headed for my bedroom.  I closed the door to my bedroom and lay down on my bed.  I opened the book and began to read.  Soon I was in the world which Louisa May Alcott had created, and I never wanted to return.

All through the summer, on every Wednesday afternoon, you could find me at the bookmobile.  Miss Marge always knew which were the best books for me.  I remember reading Little House On The Prairie, Pippi Longstocking, and Betsy and Tracey.  Sometimes my friends and I would have reading parties.  As soon as we returned home from the library, we would spread a blanket beneath the big oak tree, and there we would lie on our stomachs, reading our books.

I had no desire to watch the television; I found reading to be much more rewarding.  At bedtime I would smuggle my book under the blankets and while holding a flashlight, I would read until my mother would catch me in the act and say, “Cindy, it is time for sleeping, not reading.”  But she always had a little smile on her face, even though she was trying to be stern.

Ever since then, I have always been an avid reader.  I love reading about new places, new people, and new stories.  I’ve found that I can let my imagination take me there, inside the book.  I taught my children to read before they entered kindergarten, and to this day, each one is also an avid reader — bookworms just like me.

I believe that reading is a very special gift.  It is a gift which every child should be given.  It is a gift which will always remain with you, and no one can ever take this gift away from you.  When I think of all the people in the world, children and adults alike, who cannot read, I am saddened.  Reading is so special.  Reading is the key to knowledge.

When I look back upon those days, I realize how very special they were to me.  The bookmobile will always hold a special place in my heart, as will Marge, the librarian.  I will never forget her.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”  ~ Carl Sagan ~