When I was in first grade, I went to a terrible school in Los Angeles where the teacher had no time for us. She taught a class in which half of us spoke spanish and the other half english. She didn't have time to teach both groups.
Not only that, but my teacher used to have mental breakdowns. She said her class was out of control (which confused me because I never meant the teacher any harm, I just talked a lot and goofed around because she hardly ever taught us anything) and that she was overwhelmed by her job.
The principal would come down often and hold her. The principal would say,"Look at what all of you children have done! You've made your teacher cry!" While we stared on silently with guilt.
Still, the next day we would learn nothing. And the day after that it was the same thing.
We moved and when I entered second grade, I was sitting with a group of children who could all spell the word "happiness." I didn't even know how to spell the word "cat." I immediately started failing all my spelling tests.
The teachers put me in a special program where older kids taught younger ones how to read. She'd take a simple picture book and then read it to me, pointing at the words as she went. Then she'd ask me to read it as well.
Unfortunately, children have great memories, so I just memorized everything she said and then turned the pages and recited it back to her when she was done. I learned absolutely nothing.
Soon second grade was over and I was still illiterate. I hated reading and writing and thought the whole thing was a waste of time.
My Mother wasn't going to allow this to go on anymore. She hired a tutor who taught me phonics through flashcards. I could now sound out words and by the end of the summer, I could spell the word happiness, too! I was so proud of myself.
And I picked up my first book, started reading it to myself and found that I loved it. When I entered third grade, I was put in the advanced reading group since my reading abilities had grown so far. I enjoyed reading the books and looked forward to that part of class every day. Soon, when I was a teenager, I was reading so much that I used to neglect doing my homework and sleeping in order to get a little bit more reading time done.
If it hadn't been for that tutor, I wouldn't be a writer today. I probably would have never gone to college.
That woman changed the world for me and that's why it's so important to be patient with kids and to take the time to teach them things in ways they will understand. Reading is a beautiful thing and I hope someday we can get rid of illiteracy all together.