You Don’t Know Literacy Until You Know Jack

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My son fell in love with a Little Golden Books version of Jack and the Beanstalk that featured Mickey Mouse. Every night, no matter what other options were offered, we had to read what came to be called “Jack.” My son got to where he had memorized every word. I could stop reading and he could continue telling the story exactly as written, with marvel and surprise in his voice, though he couldn’t yet read a word on his own.

At the time, I was a new professor of reading education in my first job out of graduate school. I was still overwhelmed with the challenges of a new job, a new town in a new state, and a new family. With his baby brother snoozing in the other room, my son and I read every night when I returned home exhausted from having taught night classes for exhausted teachers coming from long days in their own classrooms.

Each evening, my son was always jazzed about reading “Jack.” “Okay, THIS one is the greatest!,” he would communicate with his posture, leaning back against me as I fought off my own impulse to doze. So, night after night, we read what HE wanted to read, how HE wanted to read, and when HE was totally focused.

I mean we always added other books from the School of Education’s media center or others recommended by “kiddy-lit” expert colleagues, too, but Jack remained the #1 favorite. Jack’s ever-present inspiration sparkled and validated a toddler’s potential as a giant killer, as a little guy who could make it in the big people’s world.

What educationally did our son get out of reading Jack night after night? Why did I acquiesce so completely to his wishes?

The love of reading. It was Jack who taught my son to love to read. Jack taught him all of the truly important things about books, reading and life. Jack taught him why being literate is such a huge asset.

Now I’m not saying that Jack had any measurable impact on my son’s academic success. And Jack was definitely not classic literature, but it was a powerful influence on the literacy growth and development of loving books and reading for my child.

My son eventually was chosen for “advanced” classes, but that happened only after he matured into an eager learner with truly wonderful teachers coaching him along. However, his comfort in rereading a book continues into adulthood.

Whatever book a child loves is the perfect choice for any night’s cozy reading.

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4 Responses to “You Don’t Know Literacy Until You Know Jack”

  1. Sheila Daschbach Welsh January 25, 2021 at 1:42 pm #

    Love, love, love this post and you my friend! Be well…

    • Mark Condon January 26, 2021 at 7:49 am #

      Right back atcha, girl!

  2. Liza Grossman February 10, 2021 at 11:52 am #

    I love this story!!! I can see you two together, lol, it brings back my favorite book memory…Go, Dog, Go! P.D. Eastman. I would request multiple books, but that was always among them. It was the first book I memorized, it captured by imagination, and I loved the rhyming. When I made it to First grade, I was considered someone whose reading skills were strong enough to be invited to read to the Kindergarten class, and that was the book I chose. It was such a BIG deal! Now, I am learning about the Science of Reading, and starting to understand just how much those experiences helped build my reading foundation, and so many of my experiences past, present and future. Thank you for sharing and sparking such great memories!

    • Mark Condon February 22, 2021 at 5:03 pm #

      How sweet of you to share, Liza! You just made MY day!