I believe in homes that cultivate a love of learning.
My family loves to play games—board games, card games, trivia games, all games. So when I was about three and half years old, my mom made up her own game for us to play together. She would spread all of our Disney movies over the living room floor, creating a puzzle of princesses, a conundrum of cartoons, an enigma of “ever-after’s.” It was then my job to make sense of the chaos: I had to get Pocahontas away from Hercules and take her back to where she belonged—by Pinocchio. The 101 Dalmatians didn’t belong next to Sleeping Beauty; they belonged in front of Aladdin. I would alphabetize them and put them back on the shelf as quickly as possible, always trying to beat my previously set record.
I loved this game. When I got stuck on a word, my mom never told me the answer; she let me think out the solution on my own. She never told me when I forgot to drop an “A” or “The,” she waited and let me discover the mistake myself. When I didn’t know what a word on the box meant, she pulled out the dictionary and we looked up the word together. I loved being able to use these new words every chance I got. Caballeros. Tyrant. Ridicule. Aristocratic. As my knowledge deepened, so did my wonder.
At the time, I didn’t see what my mom was doing. She wasn’t just teaching me to read; she was cultivating within me a love for words. She was teaching me to ask questions and not to be afraid to admit when I don’t understand. She was teaching me to look for opportunities to learn everywhere—even in the little things.
My dad helped with my love for words too. When he was bored, he would read the dictionary—not the handheld, soft cover one, but the bulky, two-hands-and-a-little-muscle dictionary. He and I would sit together and look up new words, and he would quiz me on words that he thought I should know. It was another game we played, a way we bonded.
These games we played built my vocabulary, my knowledge, and my self-esteem. They made me want to know more. They made me want to share my love for words with others—my friends today have to deal with the repercussions when I pull out the dictionary and try to “play” with them. These games made me respect my parents’ desire for me to excel in all I do and to pursue what I love.
My parents have never stopped encouraging me to learn new things, to approach matters from a new perspective, to investigate situations until I have gained all I can from them. They have never stopped teaching me, and I have never stopped learning from them.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.