Bootie Zimmer

The miracle woman who taught me to read was my mother, Bootie. Bootie never got a college degree, but nobody despaired about that because daily life went right along then without too many college graduates. Here was Bootie’s scientific method: she would hold me on her lap and read to me while she ran her finger under the words. That was it, except to read always with a lively expression in her voice and eyes, to answer my questions, and from time to time to give me some practice with different letter sounds. One thing more is important. For a long time we would sing, "A, B, C, D, E, F, G,.......H, I, J, K, LMNOP..." and so on, every single day. We learned to love each letter. She would read tough stories as well as easy ones. Truth is, I don’t think she could readily tell the difference any more than I could. The books had some pictures but only a few; words made up the center of attention. Pictures have nothing at all to do with learning to love reading, except too many of them will pretty much guarantee that it never happens.

Over fifty years ago my mother Bootie Zimmer chose to teach me to read well. She had no degrees, no government salary, no outside encouragement, yet her private choice to make me a reader was my passport to a good and adventurous life. Bootie, the daughter of a Bavarian printer, said "Nuts!" to the Prussian system. She voted for her own right to decide, and for that I will always be in her debt. She gave me a love of language and it didn’t cost much. Anybody could have the same, if schooling hadn’t abandoned its duty so flagrantly.