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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: First Day of School (06/28/04)

TITLE: Give Me Reading...Or
By L.M. Lee


No first grader was ever more enthusiastic about starting school or more desperate for the day than me! Any fears or misgivings were quickly buried beneath an overflowing cornucopia of euphoric anticipations.

My family had uprooted for my dad's return to college. Textbooks flash flooded our small house. Our home took on the mortuary silence of a library and reading reigned.

As a highly observant five year, I quickly surmised one very important fact:

I had to learn to read!

That was the undeniable truth. Nothing else mattered. I had to get into first grade as quickly as humanly possible and learn how to read before my daddy vanished behind a storm serge of books, never to be seen again.

I paced through the long summer months like a caged cheetah. Would Labor Day ever come? How much more of summer could I sweat through?

Finally, to the enormous relief of everyone, Labor Day came and the next day I would be starting school. Hurrah!

Daddy took me to school in the family car on his way to class. I felt so grown-up. Daddy was going to class. I was going to class. Life was good.

“Good” only lasted about ten minutes.

School was nothing like I had anticipated. Naturally there were desks, blackboards, brightly decorated bulletin boards, storage cubby holes, an aquarium, a terrarium and even a table displaying a mock-up of prehistoric life replete with dinosaurs and a fully operational volcano. There were even nineteen other children.

It was everything a normal first grader could want – but not me. To my stark amazement – there were no books! Not one – anywhere! None!

What is wrong with this picture?

Panic gripped my heart. Something was truly amiss. How could my daddy have left me at this terrible place? There had to be a mistake!

I kept trying to get the teacher’s attention. Where were the books? She brushed off my frantic pleadings like annoying dandruff. My zeal eroded into shear terror.

I was trapped into mindless first grade activities for the remainder of the day. I had to color, mold play-dough, attend recess, eat lunch, take a nap, eat snacks and even interact with the other children…but I was never allowed to open first textbook. Not one moment of my time was spent in the pursuit of literature.

I was wounded to the core! I had been deceived and coerced into a lie! I was outraged.

Suddenly I wondered – are the other children aware of the evil that had been perpetrated upon us.

I panned the room.


Not a single one! They had all been seduced by the magic of finger painting. Poor misguided babes…sigh.

But what was I to do? I was captured in this travesty surrounded by unknowing innocents…and I did not know for how long. They did not teach me how to tell time the first day of school either.

Yes, it was all a plot, but by whom? Who had masterminded this diabolical scheme?

I pondered a list of possible culprits. No one was presumed innocent. Every adult was suspect. They had all been a part of concocting this atrocious conspiracy.

At 3:30 p.m. the dismissal bell rang and our teacher lined us up for bus rides or parent pick-ups. Such relief swept over me when I saw my daddy. Surely he would rescue me from this “Room of Ruse!”

All the way home I ranted about the intolerable atrocities I had been subjected to. How wretched the teacher had been insisting that I color and play – what was wrong with that woman! Didn’t she understand what was at stake! Didn’t she know I had to learn how to read!

Looking back I can only imagine my dad’s perspective on my disappointment. He probably found it a mildly amusing diversion for the drive home.

But no one found my tirades even remotely entertaining the next nine months when I refused to go to school every day.

“Give me reading or give me death!”

Okay, may be my parents exaggerated a little when they told me about my passion for reading…but not by much!

© 6/28/04 Lissa M. Lee

Member Comments
Member Date
Corinne Smelker 07/05/04
OOH boy - I thought this was my story - you got inside my head and wrote my thoughts down!

I learnt to read before I got to school so imagine my dismay when I found no literature in the classroom. The next day I brought in my own books from home, and got sent to the office for "being too clever"!
Donna J. Shepherd07/05/04
Lissa, you sounded a lot like me on the first day of school. We WERE bossy little things, weren't we? LOL! I've always loved books and reading. I can't imagine a world without them! Very good. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Mary Elder-Criss07/06/04
Ahhh...Lissa...now I understand your comment on my article, lol. The bookshelf was the only saving grace in the whole big frightening room. Wish you could have been there with me!!
Great story! ~Mary
Kay Brown07/06/04
Hi Lissa, I just left a note to you on Lynda's story..nothing wrong with me. This was very cute. I didn't care if I could really read or not, I was much more interested in my new dress that day. You did a beautiful job. Oh, on that note, I told you my dad had passed away in '84...Blessings, Kay
Theresa Knight07/06/04
What a great first grader. Good Story!
Joanne Malley07/06/04
With such an early love of reading, it's not surprising you've developed a love of writing! Good story! :)
Sylvia Spielman07/08/04
Great story, Lissa. As a preschool teacher I always loved the serious children. I remember a 4 year old boy when I finished my internship who walked out of the building for playtime, stretched his arms out wide and declared, "What a wonderful day to be alive!" Cracked me up. I think, like you, these children are "old souls." A delightful read. Thanks, Sylvia
Melanie Kerr 07/08/04
"an overflowing cornucopia of euphoric anticipations." - love it! That and the fully operational volcano had me hooked to the end. You communicated well the frustration of having to put up with all the play stuff of early school life. I can remember a friend of my mother's getting told off for teaching her kids to read before they went to school. They were just so desperate to read.
Helen Dowd07/08/04
Lissa, I certainly know that you, along with the reviewers of this story, are from a different generation than I am. As you may have caught, in my story about the chalk, there was no "play" my first day of school. It was business from the start. "Jerry and Jane" with "Snow and Laddy" was our reader, and no nonsense was the rule of the day. Fear of breaking the rules was foremost in my mind. There was nothing fun about school, and I was not anxious to learn to read....I got a chuckle out of your account of your disallusionment about your first day of school.

As for - Where were the books? - Yes. I agree with the reviewer who thought this should have been in quotes. I think that quotes would have made this question stronger: "Where were the books?" It is an unspoken thought of the child. It would have emphasized her amazement. Perhaps she did speak it, as the story goes on to say that her queries were ignored by the teacher...This would make a good article to put into a parent-teacher magazine, I think... Keep writing, Lissa.