Holsey taught himself how to read within six months with the books he purchased and read in secret.
Partial Transcript: "Day by day I took a leaf from one of the spelling books, and so folded it that one or two of the lessons were on the outside as if printed on a card. This I put in the pocket of my vest or coat, and when I was sitting on the carriage, walking the yard or streets, or using hoe or spade, or in the dining room, I would take out my spelling leaf, catch a word and commit it to memory. When one side of the spelling leaf was finished by this process, I would refold it again with a new lesson on the outside. When night came, I went to my little room, and with chips of fat pine, and pine roots that were grubbed up from the woods near by, I would kindle a little blaze in the fire-place and turn my head toward it while lying flat on my back so as to get the most of the light on the leaves of the book. Thus lying on the floor with pine knots at hand and my blankets around me, I reviewed the lessons of the day from the unmaimed book. By these means I learned to read and write a little in six months.