Learning to Read

Learning to read 11.18.20

I know the reason a teacher would want to be assigned to a kindergarten, first grade or second grade class.  By third grade most students are reading to learn. In these earlier grades, as children learn to read the magic of words comes to life.  Have you ever watched a child’s eyes light up when she discovers those squiggly lines on paper match up with sounds coming out of people’s mouths. It’s truly  a magical moment.

I don’t remember the day when words printed on a page first made sense to me.  I do remember reading voraciously as a child.   Mom would take me to the Carnegie library to choose several books.  I poured over those books for hours every day until it came time to return them to the library.  I reluctantly put those cherished stories in the book return box. Sometimes this made me cry.  When I reached school age my mom would buy me a few books from the Scholastic book order flyers sent home each month.  Soon, I had my own little library.

My high school had a small library.  I vowed to read every book in the two shelves of fiction by the time I graduated  I had to read over the summer, but the school librarian had a pleased smile when I returned the stack in the fall.  And I met my goal.

Almost 50 years later I have great difficulty reading a novel. My concentration fades after two or three paragraphs.  My attention span for reading and decreased motor movement in my eyes are undoubtedly caused by Parkinson’s Disease.

This is strange as I wrote a 294 page memoire. And currently, I am narrating it into a totally accessible audio book; print words accompanying the narration. Because of my choice of audio formats, each word I narrate into the microphone at Opal Studio in Portland must match exactly with the printed book.  I am in my sixties.  I have been diagnosed with Parkinsons for almost 13 years.  At one time my voice was very quiet and I ran out of air to speak more than just a few intelligible words at a time.  After a deep brain stimulation procedure in 2016 my voice started to come back.   When I was encouraged to narrate my own book, I thought the idea crazy.  But I set a goal.  Practicing breathing techniques seemed to improve lung capacity. My enunciation of multiple syllabic words was strengthened by working in “Voice and Articulation Drillbook”  by Grant Fairbanks.  First published in 1939, it showed that some things never change. I built up my out loud reading time from 5 minutes to 45 minutes a day.  By the time I arrived at the studio on Nov. 9, I was as ready as I could be.  I made many mistakes.  I tried to go back and correct them at the moment, but one day the producer told me I had 400 “pickups” to do.  I stuttered, mispronounced words, read too fast, slurred, didn’t show enough emotion, showed too much emotion, swallowed, yawned, made a noise when I scrolled a page.  Yikes!   She had diligently listened to each word in the book and now it was my turn to correct them. The engineer, Kevin played the two sentences before the “pick up” and I read along out loud trying to match loudness and tone.  He faded my previous narration and I kept on reading.  When I was done, he played the following sentence to be sure we had matches on both ends. Before long I became an expert at “impersonating” my own recordings from a week ago.

As of today, I have one more session in the studio.  The recordings will be “mastered” by the producer.  The book cover will be updated.  And then…it will be alive and available.


Like the child experiences magic over discovering she can read, I am thrilled beyond measure. Each time I hear the small sample of completed work, my eyes sparklef from the tears wanting to leak out, and my face glows.

The Camino walks, cycling RAGBRAI, writing and self-publishing a memoire, and now this. Parkinsons, my spirit comes out ahead again! 






photos by Patricia Moak

One response to “Learning to Read”

  1. I am looking forward to the release of your audio book. That was a challenging project and you met it head on, just as you have met Parkinson’s Disease. I am honored to call you Friend❤️

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