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A Good Read

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“Bye Mar, have a nice day!” yelled Dad from the truck window as he drove away through the circuitous drop off. I felt the usual first day of school sweat on my palms and ventured up the stone stairs to the entrance. Then I had the interminable stairs to climb, each one painted a different color.
Last year’s classroom was two flights up. This year I had to go even farther to the Upper School (on the third floor). Climbing these stairs is quite a right of passage. We had finished third grade and now were no longer little kids, some of us were even in our double digits. Wheezing a little as I reached the top step, triumph ran through me and controlled my nervous twitch. I walked through the first door and the shouts and laughing of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders greeted me. I found and received hugs from all my friends, which turned out to be almost the entire class, as there were only about fifteen of us.
The teachers came to usher us to our first class and mine happened to be English. The Upper School, of the Montclair Cooperative School, was similar to a little community. We shared classrooms, recess time and teachers. There were three main teachers. Each teacher had a homeroom and a subject of their own. Suzanne was the sixth grade homeroom teacher and the English teacher. A petite woman with formerly light brown hair smiled and melted all the rest of my first day jitters. She crossed her legs in her khaki mom jeans, shook her foot and small particles of dirt sprinkled to the ground from her hiking boot; evidence of last weekend’s hiking expedition. She untangled the beaded chain that kept her glasses around her neck, brought her glasses to her face and began to read. Suzanne, my english teacher, read effortlessly. This was not the first teacher we had who would read to us, but Suzanne was no doubt the best. Each character in the novels she read had a different voice that perfectly reflected their attributes outlined in the story. The vivid character of Dustfinger, from Inkheart, came to life through Suzanne’s deep-throated impression. When she imitated a voice it was never just a low or a high voice; they always had the right amount of heart or lack thereof.
A beautiful reading voice was just one of Suzanne’s many talents. After only a short while of getting to know someone, she had the ability to pick books that they would definitely enjoy. Books with strong women or relatable main characters became my favorites. Frequently she made me read out of my comfort zone. The books in my comfort zone were comedies, ones with happy endings, or abbreviated biographies of inventors or presidents. She exposed me to books with different points of view, world issues and heaven forbid, sad books. I found myself picking books with deeper meaning than was just on the surface. The Among the Hidden series, gave a relatable point of view on China’s one child policy. My taste grew over the years I spent in the Upper School.
On the first day of sixth grade Suzanne started our English class with a grammar lesson and everyone was shocked. Joe raised his hand and said in a shaky voice, “Are you still going to read to us?” The entire class looked mournfully at Suzanne, and she replied, “Oh, Well I though you guys wouldn’t want me to because you are getting older, but we can if you still…” before she had time to finish, the class yelled, “Yes, please!” Until the day I graduated from the Montclair Cooperative School we would assemble on the rug three times a week for story time.
As I was making one of the many speeches at our graduation, I found myself getting all choked up. I had been thinking about everything that happened over the seven years I spent at the Montclair Cooperative School. I cried up on the stage in front of all my friends and their parents. I attempted to continue my speech but I couldn’t. At this point Suzanne sprang up from her seat and was at my side with a cocktail napkin. “ Hey, come on, you’re going to blow your nose, you’re going to finish your speech and it’s going to be great!” she said willfully, thrusting the coarse napkin in my face. With a little giggle in response to her pep talk I composed myself and continued my speech with a couple of shaking breaths after which I received a large round of applause. I got in the car after all the post gradation festivities with confidence, knowledge, and of course some great summer reading books.
Suzanne’s voice is what made me come back to school every day and even wish I were at school when I was on vacation. I used to wish I could just call her up to ask for a recommendation once I left school, but I know she can’t help me forever. With her help I eventually learned what my taste in books was and, how to choose them myself, but every so often I get the urge to call her when I want a particularly good read.





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