Thursday, November 6, 2008

The power of literature

From Esme Raji Codell's Educating Esme. Codell relates her experiences as a first year fifth grade teacher in a new Chicago inner city school. One anecdote pertains to Estes, our featured author on May 8th, 2008.

After lunch each day I read aloud to them. We push the desks out of the way, pull down the shades, and turn off all the lights, except for an antique Victorian desk lamp I have. It is a very cozy time.

I was reading them The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, about a Polish immigrant girl who is so poor that she wears the same dress to school every day but insists that she has a hundred dresses lined up in her closet. The girls tease her mercilessly until she moves away. Her antagonists discover that she really did have a hundred dresses . . . a hundred beautiful drawings of dresses. Oh, God, it took everything not to cry when I closed the book! I especially like that the story is told from the teaser's point of view.

Well, everything was quiet at the end, but then Ashworth asked if he could whisper something in my ear. He whispered, "I have to tell the class something," and discretly showed me that he was missing half of a finger. It was a very macabre moment but I didn't flinch.

I faced him toward the class and put my hands on his shoulders. He was trembling terribly. "Ashworth has something personal to share with you. I hope you will keep in mind The Hundred Dresses when he tells you."

"I . . . I only have nine and a half fingers," he choked. "Please don't tease me about it." He held up his hands.

The class hummed, impressed, then was silent as Ashworth shifted on his feet. Finally, Billy called out, "I'll kick the ass of anyone who makes fun of you!"

"Yeah, me too!" said Kirk.

"Yeah, Ash! You just tell us if anyone from another class messes with you, we'll beat their ass up and down!"

Yeah, yeah, yeah! The class became united in the spirit of ass-kicking. Ashworth sighed and smiled at me. The power of literature!

No comments:

Post a Comment