Read and Grow Rich

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I grew up with lesser distractions and influence of television shows and video games. Only a few families in our neighborhood owned television sets. We finally got our own black and white surplus though after I graduated from high school (March 1998).

However, my happiness was short-lived. In our area, there were only two or three TV channels we could watch. And for the most part, my brother and I had to constantly reposition the antennae and whack the damn thing to work.

Back in the day, blockbuster films in English were only available to watch every Sunday at midnight which means we had already gone to bed by the time the movie started. Thus, the only easier access I had to English were textbooks.

I was lucky. I had several nephews and nieces studying from grades 1 to 6. After school, I would borrow textbooks written in English from them. I would devour textbooks after textbooks. I would read, read, and read. 

I was a high school graduate reading elementary books: Math, Science, History, and English. In the process, I also got to review the basic concepts of these major subjects.

My dedication to self-studying major academic subjects had continued for at least 6 months. Ultimately, I decided to keep my focus on learning English. Then I realized reading English textbooks alone wasn't enough.

Textbooks bored me to death. I finally began to see the need to use other reading materials besides academic ones. This being the case, I decided to drop by at the public library located downtown.

It was the first time I had ever been to a big library. I could still remember the very moment I stepped into the building. I stopped by the door and stood for a moment quite still. I could feel my jaw dropped in total amazement as I looked at what's inside.

I can still remember like it was yesterday how dazzled I was to see all those piles of entertainment magazines, books of all kinds and colors stacked together, lined up on shelves.

There were hundreds of them. Thousands. The feel of them, the look, the smell of paper and ink, the thought of wonders and adventures concealed between the covers just wowed me. I could hardly contain my excitement.

I knew nothing about borrowing books, so I walked up to the counter and asked the staff how. Quick chat took place, application filled out, and in a few minutes, a library card was issued. I was ecstatic.

Since that day, I have fallen madly in love with libraries. You've probably gotten to that point where you've been in the library for so long that you lose track of how many hours it's been or what time of day it is. It has happened to me countless times.

In fact, I literally wore out the first card I got in just a few months. Indeed, I had been addicted to libraries and once labeled them as my second home. But here is the most important thing while on a reading spree: I was not pulling books off the shelf aimlessly.

Knowing my level was absolute BEGINNER, I deliberately picked out the ones written in simple terms. I did not rush learning difficult words. I started with children's picture books.

I had gotten fascinated with short stories for kids such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Peter Pan to name a few. I had poured my heart and soul into reading books I could easily understand without the aid of a dictionary. 

And as my comprehension skills developed, so was my need for difficult words.

Novels used to be invisible to me. Then I got curious. I had seen some students carry this kind of book around like a boss. I wondered what's in it with these books. My curiosity led me to my first novel—The Pelican Brief.

A friend had suggested I read it. At first, I was confused with the title. I knew what a Pelican is. But I wasn't so much sure about Brief. Seriously, I thought it meant, excuse me—men's underwear. Shortly after, I found out that John Grisham is a lawyer and that he writes stories about lawsuits and other legal stuff. Thus, the term Brief.

I wish I could say it was easy. But reading this best-selling legal thriller was like a self-imposed punishment for me. Difficult words tempted me to open my newly-borrowed English dictionary—all the time. (The old one had finally retired.)

I couldn't resist opening the dictionary each time I ran across a new word. "I had to know to understand," I would justify. I would read, pause, and then look the word up in the dictionary. Read, pause, and then check again. Read, pause, then emptiness.

Finally, I read, paused, and then closed the book. The reading flow seemed wrong. I was like a whale needing air, had to resurface and swim down again. I could sense I was going nowhere.

Interrupting my reading to search for word meanings did not make any sense to me. So, I started over and began to read even without completely understanding words.

Yes, I would open the dictionary once in a while. (sorry) Yes, I missed several words. And yet, I somehow understood what I read. Really? How was it possible? With the help of what's called context clues, I was able to decode unknown words. Wait Ken, what?

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