I was walking out of Cedar's school this morning, after dropping him off, and passed a poster on the wall that implored passerby to Explore Indonesia. I was headed out the door, and did not stop to read the entirety of the sign, or find out what event it was an advertisement for. But as I walked I felt sudden rush of interest in Indonesia. And a desire to learn more.
Now, I know nothing much about Indonesia, I have never been there, and I have not ever had any desire to get to know more about it. As I walked out into the cool sunny morning, I wondered if the strong feelings I was having had much more to do with the word Explore, rather than the object of that exploration.
I love the word explore. Not for how it sounds or the way it rolls off the tongue, but for the things it brings to mind when I hear it. It means something to me. I have explored a lot of places in the world, a lot of ideas, and work, and hidden corners of life, and when I think back on those explorations I feel nostalgic and pleased. I also think forward to what future explorations are lined up, and what joy and growth they will bring me. Explore is a good kind word in my history and my mind.
I got to thinking about words, what they do to us, and how they affect our lives. The words that we see on paper come from outside of ourselves and are trying to break in and alter us. Just seeing two innocent little words out of many on a sheet of paper, my emotions were so easily and simply tampered with. Written words are our ways of sharing what is in our mind and giving it over to someone else.
Cedar is learning to read, and I sit with him sometimes and listen to him work through an early reader book. He recognizes first sight words like the, and, is. And he is working on how to sound out bigger words. He gets the basics of reading, and but is not yet at the point where reading the words seems to affect him much. He reads aloud with a soft monotone, not understanding the ideas of pacing, punctuation, or emotion.
There is quite a difference between the spoken words that animate our days, which affect him (like all of us) greatly, and the vast new undiscovered world of written words. As Cedar reads to me in his Kindergarten manner, I realize that reading is much more than just learning to pronounce sounds and syllables and symbols on the page. It is about learning to interpret what the author is trying to convey.
Like me and Explore, we adults have had years of experience, and come to words with our own set of preconceived ideas and feelings. Kids on the other hand, just learning to interpret the whole world, don't. Of course, a good writer will make it all very clear, painfully so, with an expert choice of words. But it is still up to the reader to understand and draw their own meaning from it.
Once he has mastered the basics, and gains that ability to make his eyes send a message to his brain to interpret the letters on the page and divine in them some truth and have his brain send a message to his throat and lungs and mouth to create a sound into the air, Cedar has a lifetime of discovering words and stories ahead of him. For now however, the letters are just something to work on.
As a parent, it is a cool thing to watch, seeing my small child and his brain growing. I wonder about his future; what words will mean to him, what books he will fall in love with, and what connotation the word Explore will bring up. I hope to help with that one, and though we won't be off to travel across Indonesia any time soon, there is plenty of life right in front of our noses to Explore.