The Joy of Reading

By Landy Reed

When I met Clyde, my first student, he said, “I hope you can help me learn to read. I want to be a bus driver and to do that I need to read.”

“Clyde, I’ll do my best to help you achieve your goal.” He wore a neatly pressed uniform with his name embroidered on the upper left side. He towered above me.

Since getting divorced at fifty-two, I owned extra time. When I read in the newspaper that The Literary Council needed volunteers to teach adults to read and write, I called for the information and registered for the six-week training.

I was an outside account representative for a local magazine. I could manage my time to accommodate the training schedule.

Clyde’s bright blue eyes sparkled, like lights on a Christmas tree when I told him I could teach him to read. He shook my hand so hard it hurt. “If you can do that for me, it’ll be a miracle. I can repay you. I’m a great mechanic, and I can fix your car if it breaks.” He ran his hand through his sandy colored, unruly hair.

My heart smiled. “That’s not necessary.”

“You’ll do this for nothing? Why?” His look held question.

“I’ve been fortunate, and I want to do something to help others.” I paused. “Reading opens many doors and opportunities.” My love of reading began as a small child and grew. That’s why I’m a writer.

His eyes widened. “Wow! I promise to be a good student.”

“I’m sure you will.”

Clyde was pushed through the school system, tagged as being disabled, but his real problem was dyslexia. He gave up hope of learning to read.

Although, Clyde was twenty years old he possessed the eagerness of a school child at recess. He made a living working at a senior care center as a maintenance man. His parents had only a mere sixth grade education and thought Clyde fared well making minimum wage.

I can’t imagine not knowing how to read. Reading makes you think, an opportunity to develop, and expand worldly skills. And at times, a welcome escape.

Now, he and I began the tedious journey of first grade reading and writing. Once a week we met on Tuesday for an hour and a half at the center where he worked. We chatted about every day topics before the session began.

Putting forth an enormous effort to overcome his disadvantage, Clyde sweated over single sounds and syllables until words stumbled from the pages of Dick and Jane to his lips.

It wasn’t long before Clyde acquired a stack of flash cards of newly learned words. He carried them in his pocket everywhere he went and proudly recited his vocabulary to all that would listen. A world of words bloomed for him.

A twenty year old reading for the first time looks up and grins from ear to ear. You know he has entered a bright new place of wonder.

After three months, I took him to the public library, and showed him the section where the books for adults new to reading were shelved. That day Clyde received his library card. He stared at the card, and then turned to me. “Look, I’m official now. I can take as many books as I like home.”

His joy brought tears as he proudly placed the card in his wallet. “Let me wash and wax your car for helping me get my library card.”

I smiled, took his arm, and we walked out of the library. “Thanks, but I didn’t do anything, you did all the work.”

About six months into the program, I noticed Clyde squinting when he read for an extended time. With permission, I arranged for him to have an eye exam. He needed corrective lenses. No more squinting when he read, he was a go-getter with glasses.

In my preparation of weekly lessons I created new ways to help develop his abilities. I found greater appreciation for what so many take for granted – basic skills. I wanted Clyde to experience the pleasure that reading could offer.

Clyde mastered reading and the skills of printing and cursive writing in twelve months. He enjoyed reading and took pride in showing his fresh talent. His stack of flash cards became four; he could read not only books but signs, directions and maps.

During the last session, he read to me from a library book he had chosen by himself. I was awed by the joy in his eyes and the progress he had made. Reading enriched his life and opened a new world for him.

We walked outside to the parking lot. “Clyde, keep practicing the words on your flashcards and try to read one book a week.”

“Thank you for giving me the best present in the whole world. Maybe I really can become a bus driver.” He gave me a hug.

“Clyde, you’re welcome. You’ve been a perfect student. I’m so proud of you.”

At Christmas time, I received a card from Clyde. Under the message he wrote, “My daddy said you must be an angel to spend all your time teaching me for nothing.” I read his penned words through moistened eyes. Now I saw a new face of happiness, and I savored what it looked like. Giving to others truly stirs the soul. Because of regulations, I couldn’t inquire about Clyde to learn if he ever achieved his goal of driving a bus. But I knew he had been given the gift of reading. And I the gift of knowing I had helped open his life to a new world.

About this writer

  • Landy Reed

    Landy Reed

    Landy Reed is the author of Women of Wonder Years, Middle Essence, Souls of the Soul Poetry, and is currently working on a women’s fiction. She is a member of Houston Writer’s Guild, Romance Writers of America and Friends of the Library. Landy resides in Houston, Texas.

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One Response to “The Joy of Reading”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    What a lovely story, proof that one person reaching out can touch many lives.

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