In the blazing hot summers of 2006, I sat on my grandparent’s guest bed, a large canvas stand had been propped up to hold simple alphabet cards. I had been trying hard every afternoon break, studying, and studying, and studying; until finally the door would burst open to the sound of my other three siblings laughing and looking condescending to me. My anger blinded me into not trying to study, but there was always laughter in the end, since I could pick up the comedy in the situation. But this only furthered my inability to read. My two other sisters, and my only brother, had been taught at my grandfather’s farm like me. Only they had quickly caught on to learning and it seemed like they had a natural understanding of things while I was on the slower end.
This made me insecure about intelligence, and made me not try in school, and especially in reading. It also didn’t help that our father always seemed to be busy and our mother was working two jobs a day. We would stay the summers in Morganton, and we would just work the farm, and explore the forest around the farm. My family is Hmong, and we didn’t have a traditional looking farm, our chickens seemed wilder, the fencing of chickens didn’t seem organized, our pigs were fenced in by cargo platter, and it seemed we used anything to cage our animals. I didn’t realize at the time, but I would always feel like I was in a lower class economically, and socially, to other kids when I attended kindergartener.
I was the only Asian kid in my class, but that never stopped me from making friends or people disliking me. I never felt out of place, only at times when it was time to learn our lessons. I wasn’t a standout student at all, I thought I was in the middle of the pack, but I never payed attention in class. Those zoning out periods lead me to taking remedial classes in first grade.
At first, I didn’t understand it. I thought I was doing well, but apparently, I was behind on the learning curve, compared to other students. Comparison. Comparing would destroy my self-confidence in my ability to learn. It would make me feel like no matter who I talked to, they were somehow just way smarter, and if I had a good idea, I would let it pass for another person’s idea since I deemed my idea inferior. As the school year went by, I started to feel a sense of loneliness, and stupidity, I didn’t have that comradery amongst friends, and I certainly didn’t have the brightest of minds.
During recess three other girls and I went with my assistant teacher, Ms. Brown, to a smaller classroom. It wouldn’t even be appropriate to call it a classroom. The room was the size of a small stereotypical office cubicle, with grey carpeted walls, and one lamp that was in the corner luminated the entire room. There was a filing cabinet in the other corner, and the desk was next to door, with a small computer and monitor. As I observed the room, I noticed my fellow classmates were not people I associated with being the brightest or most disciplined.
I felt intimidated because I believed that everyone else there was smarter, but once class began, I realized that we were all the same. The remedial class turned into a fun class. I don’t remember a single lesson or what we did in that class, but I do remember Ms. Brown being very patient and kind with us, she even looked out for me in the K-1 building.
I struggled with paying attention in class, I was so easily distracted, and I started to feel like I didn’t fit with the other kids. I felt they didn’t know the things I have had to do, or things I have had to experience. My tenure in class was not the best. I felt alone and I didn’t feel motivated to do my class work. It looked very grim, until I met my best friend. The only person I ever clicked with, my closest friend I have had, Zander. In the second grade, we clicked off over books.
We were a pair of bookworms that always sought to outdo the other. We competed to see who could the fastest, who read the thicker book, and who found the most interesting book to read. Competition and sharing our opinions about our books, led to us becoming close, and improving our reading skills. We read books like “Harry Potter,” “Pendragon,” “The Hunger Games,” and Rick Riordan’s novels, from the beginning of second grade to the end of third grade. By no means were we reading advanced complex stories, or dissertations on American history. We were reading with passion about books we loved. I became increasingly more vocal and sharing more of myself, albeit, still not fully out of my shell.
Having a friend to talk to about your passion felt incredible. I could at any time just talk about what we both cherished. I gained a sense of comradery with Zander, and I gained a voice. Reading not only brought me friendship, but it gave a way for me to escape reality. I didn’t have the easiest of upbringings, but I certainly did not have the hardest upbringings as well. I experienced marital problems and domestic violence as a child. My siblings and I were the only ones I felt close with since we had shared trauma with each other. Reading had really brought me out of my shell and brought me a path forward.
Although I don’t read as often as I used to, I still see the value and appreciate reading. I was able to understand my classes easier, and I became more open with my ideas. My love for reading won’t die, as I love to analyze texts and breakdown my own writing to see how I can make it the best version. Reading gave me a sense of security, since if anything else failed, I could always count on reading.