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I spent that summer outrunning sunburns at a Carolina beach. My sister and I dug for crabs, gathered shipwrecked slivers and the pinkest shells from dunes. At night, my dad told us stories in the light of hurricane lamps because at seven, though I loved words, I still couldn’t read.
My parents tried everything--fairy books, a private tutor (those of you from the 80’s remember "Hooked on Phonics?") but after kindergarten, words were still loose packages of sound and rhythm for me. I couldn’t focus them onto pages where lettering slipped like black eels. To compensate, I “read” to my parents from stories I had memorized, embellishing here, skipping words there. I turned salty pages myself, marking the storyline in pictures. Then, I started to care about the order of my words, about how each picture came into play. Eventually, I noticed that there were fewer black squiggles below than I had imagined, and in trying to match my rhythms to theirs, the sound-image connection happened. The eels floated up and into focus one at a time.