I started reading To Kill a Mockingbird to my teenagers this week. It's our first readaloud in a while. I'm hoping we can actually finish it this summer.
It's been quite some time since I read this book, so re-encountering this passage in Chapter 2 was a pleasant surprise (the narrator is remembering her very first day of school). I think a few of my homeschooling friends may appreciate it. My children especially liked the third paragraph.
Then she [the teacher] went to the blackboard and printed the alphabet in enormous square capitals, turned to the class and asked, "Does anybody know what these are?" . . .
I suppose she chose me because she knew my name [due to an earlier run-in]; as I read the alphabet a faint line appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read most of My First Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading.
"Teach me?" I said in surprise. "He hasn't taught me anything, Miss Caroline. Atticus ain't got time to teach me anything," I added, when Miss Caroline smiled and shook her head. "Why, he's so tired at night he just sits in the livingroom and reads."
. . . Miss Caroline apparently thought I was lying. . . . "Now you tell your father not to teach you any more. It's best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I'll take over from here and try to undo the damage--". . .
I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime. I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers. In the long hours of church--was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able to read hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the lines above [my father's] moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills to Be Enacted into Law, the diaries of Lorenzo Dow--anything [my father] happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.