The Secret

Dianne has become a lending library for very young people in our barrio. She got one 11-year old started; he spread the word. There are four borrowers now. She lends the book, notes the child’s name and age and where the young reader lives (“Black door down the alley.”) When they return the book, they have to tell her the story contained in the book; sometimes they have to draw a picture. M. is the 11-year old. He is very bright; his father is gone; like a boy shipwrecked, he has landed on a related family, close by. No one washes him. Dianne has told him he has to wash his hands before collecting the next book. She intends to increase the number of body parts he has to wash, without hurting his feelings. J. is eight years old. Dianne is quite sure he can’t read. For his book report he makes things up. A grandmother has started to help him. We suspect there have been no books in his house. When other boys are around, he withdraws, to protect his secret: that he can’t read. Recently, Dianne reached up to touch her hair. J. flinched, thinking she was going to hit him.

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