Brace yourself. You may not want to hear this.
**First mentor: your parent/guardian. Good or bad, this/these individual/s introduced you to the world of language: Mama, Dada, please, thank you, bottle, juice, etc.
Words, sounds, connections, and meanings blossomed before you could walk.
**Fast forward a time. Your next mentor, possibly the same individual, put a book in your hand, probably made of plastic to endure your drooles and sticky fingers. The specific title didn't matter. You devoured the book, flipped a couple of pages at a time, threw it at the dog, then retrieved it at a later time. Soon you would realize the book had greater importance.
Language could be preserved, to enjoy again later.
**Time clicked. Your next mentor, perhaps a Kindergarten teacher, showed you ink embedded in paper in specific ways. Lines and circles had names called letters and those names never changed. She/he then taught you a sound/s to make when you saw the letter/s.
Lines and circle=letters. Letters represented sounds. Sounds could be squished together to form words. Do you remember the day you truly recognized a word--with no help?
**Birth of mastery: Your next mentor/s surrounded you. You called for more. Babysitters, grandpas, grandmas, uncles, aunts, cousins, anyone who would sit by you and endure yet another reading of your favorite book. "Read it," you said.
Each time someone read the book new doors to meaning opened for you. Colors on the page, characters, why you even knew when the reader skipped a word (or two!).
**Revelation: Your next mentor could have been a 1st or 2nd grade teacher, perhaps a parent or friend. They asked you to write something--more than your name. You grasped a fat pencil in your hand, pressed it to the paper and wrote. You watched the lead marks form on the paper and realized, for the first time in your life--YOU COULD WRITE.
Trial and error is a learning process.
**Development: Your next mentors probably didn't need to ask you to read or write. Their job focused on encouragement. Your history probably included reading Newberry Winners, non fiction, fiction, and of course, comic books at night with a flashlight, in the car during boring trips, or when you should have been doing chores. You may have written a few chapters of your first book in fifth grade, (I hope you kept it). Journaling seemed as important to you as brushing your teeth, no, I suppose more important.
Without being asked, you practiced because you wanted to.
Who are your mentors now?
Here's a challenge: try to communicate with the mentors listed above and tell them thank you.
This is my new series: mentors. In two weeks: Mentors: First sentence key components/ Learning from master writers.
*photos used by permission and courtesy of our Alley Cat, Angie, Tim's son and father, our Alley Cat Mary Vee's family, and our Alley Cat, Casey