The very first book that I read all by myself, in July of 1970, was The Bears' Picnic. I can remember sitting in the picture window of our split level house in Kent, Ohio, very early in the morning on a sunny summer morning. My mother, an elementary school teacher, must have taught me some of the basics, but I vividly remember that all of the words in the book made sense. And they made a story.
We had other Berenstain Bear books, and I Can Read books. My parents apparently loved joining book clubs where they mailed two books every month; we also had the Childcraft Annual books and Cricket Magazine. (This might explain why I have no memory of going to the public library or a bookstore!)
Oddly, I kept this news to myself. I didn't tell my kindergarten teacher in the fall, and when I came home from first day of FIRST grade with the exciting news that I had read the entire short basal reader On Our Way, my mother wrote it down in my baby book.
No wonder I was such a good reader in elementary school. I had a year more practice than anyone knew! In second grade, we had individualized reading, and I read a 6th grade text book. I had to reread it in 6th grade because the teacher didn't believe me. I read in middle and high school, and obviously still love to read.
I had a lovely secret for a year. And I have the Berenstains to thank.