It was third grade. Cursive writing. Hullabaloo and go go boots. Little kid crushes. Mrs. Powers.

Youngest in the class and weird. She inadvertently placed me near the classroom library and I read those books, early chapter books, constantly. A little below my level since I’d just finished “To Kill a Mockingbird”  the previous summer, but I’d have read Dick and Jane books to avoid her acerbic, boring, unloving presence before me each day.

I think I’m being subtle as I read a book under the raised lid of my desk.  Who knows what subject she was trying to teach me?  I was completely absorbed when the book was snatched violently from my hands and as I jerked back, my desk top was slammed down.  They lost me to academia in third grade. But no one ever interrupted my passion for reading at the expense of classroom attention, my reputation and my teacher’s approval. That’s how I remember her and pretty much all I remember about third grade.  A face contorted into intense fury.  And the kids in class?  They started calling me bookworm, taunting me on the playground, as I walked home, in the bathroom.  “Bookworm! Bookworm

I wear it proudly now, that curse.  And as I read to a little bookie monster in my life who’s heading off to school soon I swear to her that “bookworm” will never be a curse and that little kids — really all of us — deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion  when we are weird and need to figure out the rules for fitting in.

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