Sunday, December 22, 2013

She May B. Dyslexic

Our children very often don't have an understanding of the kinds of lives people their age lived 100 or more years ago. In Caroline Starr Rose's beautiful little book, May B., we see a young girl who sounds very much like my own students today in 2013. But May's life is very, very different in many ways, and I can't help but think how special it would be for our students to read this book.

May's parents tell her she is going to have to travel 15 miles to live with another homesteader and his new wife. They need help around the homestead, and he is willing to pay May's parents to have her stay with them and help for the next few months. May knows it isn't permanent, but she also isn't ready to move away from her parents for so long with no way to be in contact with them. 15 miles across rough land in a horse and buggy is nothing to take lightly. To make matters worse, May is going to have to stop going to school when she moves in with them. School is hard enough for May, but with such a long time away from it, she knows she is never going to move out of the little kid side of the schoolhouse. It is embarrassing enough to have to sit with the little kids at her age because she can't read. After months away, she knows it will be worse and she will suffer the wrath of her teacher even more than she does now.

At the homestead, it is clear the homesteader's wife doesn't want to be there. She doesn't intend to do any chores herself, but it seems like May's very presence bothers her. When she picks up and leaves, her new husband chases after her, leaving May behind in the homestead. May assumes they will be back, but days and days pass and no one returns. Left to tend to the home herself with no new food, she has enough to survive a while, but not until her father comes for her at Christmas. Just a child, May B. does the bravest thing she could do. She survives.

May B. is my newest love. This book is told in short free verse that is very readable and easy to understand. It also makes the book incredible accessible for students who struggle with reading. Do they look at a page full of text the same way May describes? You bet they do! So having these short, powerful snippets are an amazing way to tell the story of a dyslexic girl while simultaneously not alienating the dyslexic young adults who the story would mean the most to. Pure brilliance. And while May isn't actually stated as being dyslexic, her struggles with reading are so spot on, you can't deny her obvious dyslexia. I loved this. Our students are lucky enough to live in a modern world where dyslexia is known and can receive remediation. What if they lived 150 years ago and you were just considered unintelligent if you couldn't read? This book really gives them a moment of perspective, and I really believe that is invaluable.

In addition, May is a young dyslexic girl who is SO brave she is able to take care of herself and survive through enormous winter storms all by herself. We so often now see kids who passively let everyone do things for them- teachers, parents, etc., but they never learn to handle difficult situations themselves. In fact, the Washington Post did an interesting article on these "Snow Plow" parents. So to watch May survive and figure things out herself was truly inspiring. I love this little story, and I think it would be great for any kid to read. It is simple enough for super low-skilled students, but it is also appropriate for older students as a supplement to history or a quick connection to the times. I think parents and teachers will enjoy this quick little story too. It was just so wonderful in ever possible way!

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