Library Story: Learning to Read


Alice has travelled extensively over the years. She is currently on disability and lives in Jamestown, ND with her service dog Blue.

Story by Alice Mueller Harris


Not long after World War II in 1950, my family took a ship to the United States from Germany to make a new start. There were ten people in all; my father, my mother, her mother and father, her three brothers and three sisters. They found their way to Chicago even though they spoke only German and Polish.


I was born on January 22, 1956. From a very young age I had a learning disability. It was really hard for me to learn to read, to write and to understand. I wanted to learn but my mother and father could not help me, for they had problems themselves learning to speak, read or write English. I soon learned about the library from school and other people. But when I went there, it scared me half to death. They were so big with lots of books that I could not read. I tried a few times to get help, to get a book. But when I took one home all I could do was look at the pictures. I stopped going. At that time, it didn’t seem important.


It was hard to learn English. At home, everyone spoke German or Polish, and, broken English. I grew up speaking a little German and a little Polish, no English. Having to learn English got in the way. Never did well in school, never finished high school.


When I got older, I left home and did a lot of travelling. In Amarillo, Texas, I met a man named William that everyone, including me, called Billy. We got married and soon had a baby boy that we named after his grandfathers, Clint Paul Harris. I so much wanted to settle down, go to church, learn to read for my boy so he would not have the problems I had growing up. But things did not work out. My boy was taken from me. I started travelling.


One day in one of my travels, I came upon a bible, kept it with me, but that’s all.


One day I took out the bible, a King James version, at the kitchen table. I stared at it for a long while, tried to read it. I could not. I prayed a heart-felt prayer to the Lord asking him to teach me to read his word. He did just that.


It took awhile, but I learned. Once I learned to read the bible my eyes were opened to other books. Now I could understand them, how important they were to me and my life.


I travelled again, but now I had a bible I could read. I moved to Springfield, MO., got an apartment and found a church. I also found a library that I went to once in awhile. That was a beginning. I took one book at a time and read it. I stayed in Springfield for four years. The city was too big. I’m not much for big city’s even though I was born in one.


Learning to read gave me a chance to learn the driver’s book and I got a car. I drove away from Springfield in a cheap car and I drove it till I could drive it no more. That is how I came to Jamestown. My car gave out and the Lord said this is it, you can’t go any further. I have made my home here for seventeen years.


I am not able to drive anymore. In the spring and summer, I take the local bus to the library. where I am offered many things that I would not have if I stayed at home.


The library has so much to offer a person, not just books. I love to read at the library and spend hours just looking at different books, but there are places in the library where you can sit and visit with others.


And, if you cannot find what you are looking from the bookshelves, they have computers that will help you find the information you are looking for. I have built a small library from the book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Library.


To top all that, they also have movies to rent for free.There is so much you can learn for free in the library that no one else can give you or eve offer you.


One thing I forgot to say. I found an Australian Shepherd in 2013. From the books at the library I learned to train my dog and get him certified as a Service Dog. Blue has been part of my family for four years now.


Just go to the library in your town and ask those nice men and women to help you.

I am sure they would be glad to show you around.

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