When I was in sixth grade, I remember being sent to read in the hall with Jamal. Jamal was often disruptive and got extra help throughout the day. I don’t know how I was chosen to read with him, but I can still visualize the green carpeted hallway where I read to him from Trumpet of the Swans. Out in the hall, Jamal listened-calmed by the story perhaps.
At some point in the story, our class found out that Jamal was moving to a different school. I knew we wouldn’t have a chance to finish Trumpet of the Swans together. I broke my E.B. White boxed trilogy I had at my house and gave Jamal my copy of Trumpet of the Swans. I wonder if he ever finished the story.
As a student teacher in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I did both my regular education placement and special education placement in the same fifth grade inclusion classroom. I introduced the class to literature circles and long division. I can still picture most of the kids in the class. My first students. One student in particular stands out. Edward. He had a great sense of humor and I quickly discovered what motivated him-believing in him. Edward had a hard time sticking with books but wanted to read Harry Potter so badly. I struck a deal with him towards the end of my placement at the school. I would read the story too, so we could check in on how it was going together.
My student teaching experience ended before we got to finish the book. I bought a brand new book, wrote a message inside, and gifted Edward his very own copy of Harry Potter.
A few years into my teaching career, I received a Christmas card from Edward. I had included my address in the Harry Potter book. He was now in eighth grade. His classes were a little tough. He hoped I’d write back. Ten years later, his card still lives in my top desk drawer.
I carry these stories with me along with the hope that we all find the Jamal and Edwards among us. May all our hearts know the joy and connection that reading together can bring.