by Lois Lowry

My oldest child, a daughter, remembers that when she was three, and we lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while her father was a law student, she often walked with me to a nearby grocery store. She tells me that there were letters painted in the street at the corner where we stopped and waited for the light to change. I have no memory of them. But she tells me that I pointed the two Os out to her. I told her they were like eyes, she says, and that because of those O-eyes she could remember that the word in the street was look.

Then — a miracle! — one evening she glanced at the print in a picture book I was reading to her (who knows what it was? We had so many) and happened upon the same word. She saw it on the page, looked up at me, saw that I was reading the print, heard me saying the word look — and made the magical connection in her mind that propelled her, like a little tow-headed rocket, into reading.

Thirty-five years later, I live again near that same street corner. The letters are no longer there, though I believe my daughter that they once were. I never walk past that place without thinking how private, powerful, and memorable a moment it is, in the life of a child, when the shape of letters takes on meaning and a door of the world opens.

Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium: Transformations
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