Sunday, January 25, 2015

Remembering Elizabeth

Elizabeth Read
Miss Elizabeth Read (1911--2000)
Can't help but smile when people imagine how awful the single life must be for me. The truth is, the most fulfilled and joyful person I have ever known was never married a day in her life. Her name was Elizabeth Read, and it is my honor to have been her great niece.

In brief, today is her birthday. Born in 1911, she later graduated from college and became a teacher. In 1939, she earned a master's degree in History from the University of Pennsylvania. She eventually became the Chair of her high school's History Department until her retirement in 1972. From that point on she traveled the world non-stop for more than twenty years. Elizabeth lived to be almost 90.

Those are the broader points of her life; however, she is probably the reason I am able to sit here and write to you today. She used her teaching abilities to reach me. Oh, I cannot tell you how many times Elizabeth took me to the library's Reading Circle, or how many books she gave me, or how many plays we attended...

Thanks to this amazing woman, I learned to read when I was 3. I didn't speak much, and evidently I didn't DO much either, because my lack of involvement with life and other people almost landed me in the remedial class in the first grade. No one else, except for my father, realized I could read. But she knew, too. And little by little, Elizabeth drew out of me what had been sitting dormant for years. She realized I had a mind, and she found a way to open it up.

I love you, Elizabeth, and as the years go by, I miss and appreciate you more and more everyday. Until we meet again.

And to your autistic children. Read to them every chance you get.



  1. Elizabeth was quite the lady...thinking about her today also on her birthday. Erin's middle name is Elizabeth after her. Ml

  2. Thank you, ML for commenting. I didn't know Erin was named after Elizabeth. That is so nice. Anyway, time has a way of putting things into perspective. I see how much she did for all of us. Elizabeth deserves to be known and remembered for being the dynamic person she truly was.

  3. Reading to my nuggets is my FAVORITE thing ever! I think it's due to the lazy nature of it- ha! Or more likely all the snuggles involved and the ability to use my dramatic nature to breathe life into the story. The lad sights reads a boatload (and possibly actually can read) but I think how unbelievably comforting it must be for him to know the letters are always the same- they will not alter: X is X. And I can tell he feels pride in our praises as he reads, or labels...and the familiarity of a favorite book.
    Yes! Reading rules! :-)

    1. Forgive me as I am chuckling a bit. I want to let you know that your son is not suffering with the agony of change on the level you may think he is. So try not to worry. I can honestly say that there is no concern or comfort in the continuity of letters. What the letters do is form words that form a story which ignites imagination and my joy in your son's interest in books is centered on his joy. His reaction to books tells me He lives outside of himself when he is engaged in a story and because he does, this to me, is a high indication of the potential for healing.

      I will say that you could see my autistic tendencies when it came to words, though. Everyday after school I came home and copied words from the dictionary. I was probably the only five year old who knew what an abacus was.

      Also, I was fascinated with my dad's typewriter. I cried and screamed when I could not play with it, but in my case I truly wanted it to do something for me. In other words I did not have an isolated obsession with buttons. I knew the typewriter had a function and THAT is what I wanted from it. My parents finally realized my desire to type was real and bought me my own at 12. I was typing a week later. This one little skill led me to work for the deaf, by the way. I typed the words of hearing callers so deaf people could read the conversation on their TTY machines. It is important to not discount any interest your child has right now. Many of their hobbies can lead to career or job opportunities later on down the road if cultivated properly.

      Have a blessed day, Jillian! Thanks for commenting and reading about one of my great aunts. Another story about Valda will appear soon.