Tag Archives: reading

Back in caveman days

Many hairy returns

Way, way back—I mean 2.5 million years ago—nobody read anything, because nobody wrote anything down. If you wanted to say ‘happy birthday’ to your uncle who lived in the next county, you’d have to walk there and tell him yourself. There weren’t any birthday cards, or paper, or pencils—and no alphabet, so you couldn’t even write ‘many happy returns’ (whatever that means).

On the other hand, one thing you have to say about us human beings is: we like stories. Not only that, we like stories with pictures. So prehistoric human beings did the best they could with the resources at hand. They painted gorgeous, inspiring hunting scenes on the inside of caves where they lived. For paint, they used ash, chalk, colored minerals, even blood. These scenes tell the story of triumphant hunters, or maybe they hoped their mural would convince their gods to grant them a successful hunt.

https://www.ancient.eu/Lascaux_Cave/
https://www.history.com/news/prehistoric-ages-timeline
https://www.inrap.fr/en/periods
https://naturalearthpaint.com/blog/natural-earth-paint-through-the-ages-the-prehistoric-era/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

AGAIN!

Have you ever read a book to a little brother or sister? Over & over & OVER again? That kid hasn’t learned to read yet. You, of course, are an expert reader—you don’t need to sound out each letter anymore, you look at a group of letters and right away you know it means ‘cat’, or ‘bicycle’ or ‘salami.’

A cat, a bicycle and a salami.

Our alphabet—the one you’re reading right now—is a code. Each letter stands for a particular sound. A group of letters—a word—can stand for a thing, or an action, or an idea. When a young reader sounds out the letters of a word, he’s learning how to crack that code.

Our alphabet is a gift from people who lived a long time ago—the Phoenicians. Before they came along, hardly anyone knew how to read. Reading was a secret skill practiced by a few select people.

https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/how-do-kids-learn-to-read.html

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Kids and reading

Illustrator Kelly Light writes a thoughtful essay about encouraging kids to read.  And how do you do that, without making it seem like an obligation?  She has a daughter, so her recommended reading is girl-oriented.  I should get myself together and compile a list of the boy-oriented books that shaped my childhood.

I’m lucky—I come from a family who reads for pleasure.  My dad used to take me along on his trips to the old public library in downtown Syracuse, New York.  This was one of Andy Carnegie’s beautiful libraries—in the 70s, the boneheaded decision was taken to move the books into a mall. The building is still there, but it’s offices now.  I could take you on a tour of that dear old place—from the bust of Marconi on the right as you entered, up the worn marble stairs to the plate-glass floors on the second storey.  The children’s books were on the first floor in the back.  It had tall windows and ceilings, and blue carpet.  That’s where I first read Yertle the Turtle.

Anyway, give Kelly’s post a read.