Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Wonder About the Five

Five young men standing on the side of the road waiting on a school bus and holding nothing, not even a bookbag. Where were their books? We always carried books home when I rode the bus back in the “dark ages.” In fact not having a book on the bus could lead someone to believe you could neither read nor write.
Most of my schoolmates also carried something called a notebook, used to write down things learned at school. Then there was something called “homework” which was left over school work or assignments we had to do at home. Some kids’ parents made them do their homework before they could go out and play, and in fact, checked to see that it had been done. I suppose there’s no need for that today with most kids playing indoors with televisions and computers.

Carrying a book was a great way to meet girls and usually the ones that carried books were the ones you wanted to meet (you would carry theirs).
The ones not carrying books usually smoked, had bad breath, and sat in the back of the bus. I don’t know how today’s’ kids meet each other when no one seems to be carrying any books.
Taking a book home also meant that you might be prepared for the discussion the teacher expected from the class. I very seldom said anything in class.
The first thing the teacher would do when class began was go over your homework. If you were a fast writer you could do the homework as she went over the answers, but I wasn’t very fast with a pencil and often turned in what the teacher referred to as “substandard” work.
Pencils were very popular back then. I suppose they would still be used today, but having a pointed object would classify them as contraband and too dangerous to bring to school.
Using a pencil was a great way to learn how to write because it had an eraser in case you made a mistake. I made lots of mistakes.
I wondered about a lot of things when I saw those five young men waiting on the bus. I wondered if their parents felt it strange that they had brought home no books or if they even cared. Do teachers still give homework?
Most of the successful people I know who carried books home seemed to get more than just the written word out of the books. It may have been the discipline required to open the book, or maybe, just an opportunity to spend time with what someone called, “a good friend.”
We used to consider the ability to read very important. Reading required training and effort in the early grades and you also had to have someone with a lot of patience willing to teach you how to read. I still remember how excited I was to learn a new word from Mrs. Mott, my first grade teacher, as she put the word on a portable chalk board in front of our group and then pronounced it.
I would take that word home and repeat it to mom who would find it in a children’s book and read it again. What a special time that was and what a gift they both were to me. I wonder if anyone was home when those five were in the first grade to tell them about a “friend” waiting to be discovered in a book. Or show them a new exciting word that would help them understand other words. I wonder if those five can read. There is the possibility they can’t, and wouldn’t that be a shame?