Third Time’s the Charm

It once took me three whole visits to the school library just to get one book. In first grade, I was proudly able to read chapter books with little to no help. I was not anywhere close to my sister’s level of reading ability, but it still felt satisfying to see my work paying off. It was a good outlet, especially during my family’s move to New York. Transferring schools is never a clean, easy process. Though, it wasn’t the first time I had changed schools, and it would be far from the last. After leaving New Hampshire, there was Birchwood for half of first grade. When my family and I had lived in a dilapidated apartment with hundreds of cockroaches that would scurry under the space between the walkway and the door frame. We would have to jump over them every time we entered the house. After that was Rosendale, when we lived in a far nicer house. Of the two New York elementary schools that I’d been to at that point, Rosendale definitely lead to a lot of the stranger experiences.

Rosendale was far nicer in quality than I was used to. The floors seemed new, and the teachers were much younger than in my past schools. Mrs. Anderson was strange, but nice. I was bored by her teaching, some of what she taught the class I had already learned. Although, it was better than being behind, as I was at another school I transferred to. The school had reading time in the library every few days or so. The library was as nice as the school. They even had a section with DVDs that students could take out, instead of checking out a book. I was boggled- we didn’t even have a DD player at home. The rest of the kids headed to a section with thin books and colorful shapes. I wandered the library instead. Although I was new, I knew what I liked. I was a simple person, I liked books on animals, or Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, the Rosendale Nancy Drew section was small, only books I had already read before. So, I grabbed a chapter book with a strangely-colored horse on the cover. I had recently started memorizing a set of cards that I had received for my birthday with different horse breed information on each card. Every few months or so I would find a new animal and research as much a possible with the limited access to books that I had. I would try to use the memorized information to start conversations with new classmates (not a great tactic).

The school librarian was older, gray-haired tied up. She owned a lot of sweaters, with very little color. She didn’t look mean. I went to the counter with as much confidence as a new student with no friends could, only for the librarian to refuse to let me check out the chapter book. She asked me to read the first couple of sentences to prove that I could read at that level. The line behind me was getting longer, and my face was getting hotter. I silently left the line, returned the book, and picked up a smaller children’s book about counting coconuts or something easy. I didn’t want to read it, but after the librarian incident I didn’t want to read anything ever again.

I pretended that the incident didn’t happen until my mother found the children’s book in my bag. She asked why I had picked out a book like that, since I had been looking forward to picking out one of the chapter books. I tried to be vague, but I was six and bad a lying. My mother figured out what happened pretty quickly. She was angry, inappropriately so in my young opinion. It wasn’t that big a deal, but she called the school anyway, explaining that I knew how to read chapter books. That I had been reading chapter books for months.

Later on, it just made it worse. The librarian pulled me aside during the next reading time. She showed me her favorite book from when she was my age. Insisted I take it, I gazed at the animal chapter books longingly. But I conceded because I had upset enough adults in the previous days. My mother found the book and was confused, so I vaguely explained that the librarian was trying to help me. My mother said to just go pick up the book I wanted the next visit, and to ignore the librarian. My sister laughed at me while reading one of her chapter books. I tried reading the book that the librarian gave me, but it really was not in either of the criteria that I liked.

The next reading time, I picked up the book I wanted. I stayed quiet when the librarian asked me about the book she’d suggested. When I finally read the book that I’d worked so hard to get, it wasn’t even that good. The whole experience had made me embarrassed that I had worked so hard for something that lead nowhere. Beyond that, people still assumed I was illiterate, and I didn’t even try to correct the opinion. I was already alone and awkward, and the librarian made me want to stop reading all together. If it wasn’t for the asbestos forcing me out of the school, I would have wanted to leave anyways.   

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