I went to school without attending preschool. In fact, I did not know there was such a thing as preschool. Hence when I entered Standard One, I could not read or write a word of English.
The first year was quite miserable. My father could not afford any tuition for me, and I just made do. Slowly I started understanding words and learnt to spell. By the end of Standard Two, I could read and write English reasonably.
My classmates in school, WYK, AL and OHT came from better backgrounds and their parents bought them story books. And WYK, AL and OHT were very generous in lending me their books to read.
And, boy, did I read. I loved the stories and read them voraciously. I think even in these early years, I started speed reading just because I had to return the books the next day.
(My “finding” of libraries came later. In fact the first library I remember visiting is the USIS library in Penang).
I have never really learnt English. Till today I have no idea about the rules of the language like what past or present participles or antonyms etc. are. And I am quite happy not finding out. My English is controlled by the “it sounds right” theory.
I just read. Moving from Enid Blyton to James Hadely Chase to Robert Ludlum then to PG Wodehouse and so on. Just fiction at first. Books that may now in our adult age be classified as trashy novels.
I also found comics. Superman, Spiderman, the Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Conan the Barbarian…. I went through them all.
Then it was history, which was so much like the story books I loved. The Crusades, the travels of Ferdinand Magellan, World War I and II etc.
The self improvement and productivity books came much later in life.
This love for reading + my early adaptation to speed reading is one of the two things I credit most in my doing well in my studies. (The other was finding my “switch”).
And doing well in my studies turned out to be the cornerstone of my progress in life.
I owe it all to my classmates, WYK, AL and OHT. WYK is now a doctor in Penang, AL is the Chief Investment Officer in one of Malaysia’s leading Fund Management companies and I have lost complete touch with OHT.
I have yet to thank them properly. This I must do.
In the meantime, I want to record my heartfelt tribute to them for having given me this tremendous helping hand of getting me to “love to read”.