Start Up, Red Truck!

8:30am class, Methods of Teaching Reading, we sit there in the chairs with the flip-up desks. We’ve pulled them into a semicircle today, and she sits there in the front, facing us, reading a book.

It’s a picture book, she says maybe fourth grade, and it’s about slavery and freedom and one brave boy and his equally brave, faithfully loyal dog. It’s real and intense and we’re all there, twelve future teachers, captivated.

And sitting there at her own chair-desk, her enthusiasm and joy for teaching pouring out of her, into every word, every gesture, every dimpled teacher-smile. And she talks about reading to children and developing love of books, and suddenly, I’m thinking home and summer and the little boy who stole my heart.

May, 2013, it’s almost Memorial Day and Jaid’s two months with us are almost over. Later, we’ll see him on the 4th of July, wearing matching USA shirts with Glendy and Larissa; he’ll come again in August, two weeks of bike rides and peanut butter spoons and carting seventeen Matchbox cars around the house. Later still, the father and I will visit him in his new home, two days before Christmas, and I’ll hug him tight, ecstatic to see him again.

But, of course, the future is near-impossible to tell, and we didn’t know then that there would be visits and hugs and texts and relationship. So we packed his bag and printed pictures and gave extra hugs and stayed up past even the highly flexible bedtime loosely imposed upon the little ones, and many nights, we read.

Always the same book, the mother bought it for him, sometime earlier in his stay. A large board book, big letters across the front read Red Truck, and that little boy with an affinity for red and an obsession with trucks? He adored that book.

We read, he listened. The weather wet and snowy, the school bus stuck, who could come to the rescue but Red Truck? I read the book to him after bathtime, often. His little body, clad in green frog pajamas, car in hand, cornrows now fuzzy brushing my chin as we sat there. I read, and others must have been reading, too, because one night, I opened that book, and he recited the opening lines.

My smile growing with every time his little hand flipped the page, we went through the entire story. With each page, I began reading, only to be joined by his baby voice, still learning pronunciation, inflection, sounds, but so confident, assured of every word in that Red Truck book.

Stevy in the kitchen, I called him out, showed him the J-man’s skills. That active, running, yelling, throwing little boy sat on my lap, the book clutched in his strong hands, his voice joining with mine on every page. And when the bus gets stuck and there is no way around and the children stand in the snow and they must get to school, I turned the page with him, opened to a bright drawing of Red Truck.

Jaid didn’t wait, then. Start up, Red Truck! He shouted before I opened my mouth, word-for-word matching the caption lining the top of the page. Stevy and I laughed, I kissed the child’s lotion-soft cheek.

Thursday morning reading class; 8:30am on a January day of class and snow and work. But she says the importance of reading, the effect of words and books, and I can hear his voice in my head, that sweet, crazy, wonderful little boy, Matchbox cars in his lap and train tracks scattered across the carpet; Start up, Red Truck! He yells. Engaged, entranced, involved, in that picture book.

Because books? They are so very valuable.



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  1. Trackback: There are Stories | Lead Me Where

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