If You Can Read This, Thank the Teacher Who Taught You!

The greatest gift I have ever been given is the ability to read.

It is Teacher Appreciation Week here in the US, and every time it rolls around, I give quiet thanks to Miss Meldrum, my grade 1 teacher at Sandown Primary School. I can’t say I truly remember the actual process of being taught to read, but I can still picture the books we used. Can you recall your first readers?

Years before I even set foot in a classroom, my world was steeped in the written word. My father’s job (Circulation Manager for the biggest newspaper group in southern Africa) resulted in anywhere up to twenty-five newspapers being delivered to our house every week. One of my earliest memory is sitting on our lounge floor, the newspaper spread in front of me as I studied the photographs and advertisements. I tormented my older sister, begging her to read me the captions, and sometimes she did.

How do you make a beach even more perfect—add a book!

Then, at some point, the squiggly marks all made perfect sense, and I could read! To this day, I am still in awe that 26 humble letters, combined in different ways, create magic.

My family was almost as dedicated to our local library as they were to our church. You went at least weekly, you handled everything with reverence, and you spoke in a quiet voice. I adored these outings. Every row of books glinted with the promise of worlds to explore. Every spine whispered my name, tempting me to dive in and lose myself inside someone else’s imagination.

And all this because a dedicated teacher taught me to read.

Full disclosure, my sister, her husband, and many other members of my extended family are all educators. Yes, those very people who (as we have recently learned) are on the same level as angels. We have all heard those interviews with famous people who answer the “who influenced you the most / who first noticed your talents / who had the biggest impact on you?” question with the name of an educator, be it a teacher, Headmaster, or coach. What other profession has such an enormous impact on people that they recall a name decades later? 

My deep love of reading led to my desire to write. Again, it was an educator, the Headmaster of my Primary School, who told me I had talent. I was about 11; I had no idea! From then on, reading and writing have been part of my every day: my undergrad and post-grad studies revolved around writing in some form. My first job was at a newspaper, and although I was in the Promotions Department, I spent most of my day writing articles to promote all our events. When I went out on my own to start a Media Relations business, the writing was again a keystone of the work. Over the years, I have tutored in writing, and even my current business—a professional public speaking coach—requires I write speeches and presentations. A few years ago, I self-published my first novel, and I am currently revising my second. It goes on and on, and as I look back, I am even more grateful for the teacher who taught me to read.

In these C-19 days as we sequester ourselves from the world, many are turning to books. They’ve rediscovered their love of reading and the joy of losing yourself in another world. From the comfort of your favorite chair, on your porch, or in your bed, you can open a book and drop into another world, even another century. 

I cannot imagine my life without the printed word. It begins my day—The New York Times—and it ends my day—my hour-long bedtime read. Even if you are just a once-in-a-while reader, take a moment to thank all those teachers who give us this gift.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R. R. Martin. 

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