That was the first word I ever read.
It was the first hour of the first day of my first year of school. Like my classmates, I sat obedient and quiet and happy and quite a bit curious and more than a little excited in my seat. The teacher walked by the desks and placed a book on each one, each book open to the first page. I saw a picture of a winter coat on one side of the page and another of a country road on the other side. Below each picture was a collection of letters. I knew because I knew my letters from my building blocks.
All the books distributed, the teacher stood before us and asked, "Who can tell me what the first word is?"
Jim Morgan raised his hand. The teacher nodded to him and Jim said, "Coat."
In that instant my world changed. I stared wide-eyed at that word. Coat. I realized that the letters on my building blocks held a power unknown to me before. I saw on that very page that there were other words, and I wondered how many more words letters could make.
My parents were not readers. They grew up in hard times when all able hands were needed to earn bread to feed the family. But they wanted me to have the education circumstances denied them. They thought books might help with that, and they were easy marks for an encyclopedia salesman. They bought the World Book Encyclopedia (with the yearly update subscription), Lands and Peoples (a multi-volume geography), and the twenty-volume Book of Knowledge. They arranged these books in a built-in bookcase in our living room and never disturbed them.
I came home from my first day of school with the wonder of words still gripping my imagination. I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the bookcase and pulled a book from the middle and opened it. There on the page I saw flocks and herds and stampedes of words. I could not read any of them, but I knew that would change.
I looked up at the books standing in the bookcase and I saw the future, that I would learn the words and one day these books would yield me their secrets.
That was the first word I read. I never stopped.