Stay in your books baby, and the world is yours

Photo Credit: @jadablanco

 

Photo: @jadablanco

The following letter was written by Jada for her is year-old son Jaden. You can follow both of them on Instagram for more of her stunning photography (and check out Jaden’s account too! He’s got skills!)

 

 

 

 

Watching you write and listening to you read are two of my all time favourite things. When you were tiny and we first learned of your hearing loss, there was a brief period of time I thought maybe you wouldn’t be able to enunciate words as beautifully as you do, that maybe you would be behind in class and struggle to keep up with the other children. I would have still loved you all the same, maybe even a tiny bit harder, because maybe I would have felt you needed it that bit more.

I’ve been reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and there’s a page which encouraged me to hand you this dictionary and notepad {excerpt below}. Sitting opposite you now, aged 6, watching you copy pages of your dictionary onto paper gives me a feeling I can barely put into words myself. The look of pride across your face makes every struggle we ever encountered worthwhile. Seeing you focused and calm, lost in those words and concentrating on that continuous cursive lettering fuels me with the patience needed to ride the waves of your intense, energetic and persistent moments.

Stay in your books baby, and the world is yours 💙

Photo credit: @jadablanco

Extract from The Autobiography of Malcolm X

I saw that the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary—to study, to learn some words. I was lucky enough to reason also that I should try to improve my penmanship. It was sad. I couldn’t even write in a straight line. It was both ideas together that moved me to request a dictionary along with some tablets and pencils from the Norfolk Prison Colony school.

            I spent two days just riffling uncertainly through the dictionary’s pages. I’d never realized so many words existed! I didn’t know which words I needed to learn. Finally, just to start some kind of action, I began copying.

            In my slow, painstaking, ragged handwriting, I copied into my tablet everything printed on that first page, down to the punctuation marks.

            I believe it took me a day. Then, aloud, I read back, to myself, everything I’d written on the tablet. Over and over, aloud, to myself, I read my own handwriting.

            I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words—immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I’d written words that I never knew were in the world. Moreover, with a little effort, I also could remember what many of these words meant. I reviewed the words whose meanings I didn’t remember. Funny thing, from the dictionary first page right now, that “aardvark” springs to my mind. The dictionary had a picture of it, a long-tailed, long-eared, burrowing African mammal, which lives off termites caught by sticking out its tongue as an anteater does for ants.

            I was so fascinated that I went on—I copied the dictionary’s next page. And the same experience came when I studied that. With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionary’s A section had filled a whole tablet—and I went on into the B’s. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary. It went a lot faster after so much practice helped me to pick up handwriting speed. Between what I wrote in my tablet, and writing letters, during the rest of my time in prison I would guess I wrote a million words.

            I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors—usually Ella and Reginald—and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.

Photo Credit: @jadablanco

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