Saturday, 31 May 2014

How a Book Got a Boy Out Of a Snowsuit

I tutor.  Through one of my other students I got a call from a mom who wanted literacy support for her young son. She warned me that he was not willing and when the day arrived for our first time together she came to the door without him. He had refused to get out of the truck. She went back and forth cajoling and encouraging until he finally got out but stood in the snowbank just outside my backdoor. His mom and I thought she should leave while I kept an eye on him.

I opened the door and invited him in. He gave me no response or indication that he even heard me. I opened the door again and gently told him that he was welcome to come into the house whenever his wished and when he did I would read him a story. I held my breath. Within a few long minutes he came to the door and I let him in. He shook off one snow boot and slowly pulled off one mitten then stopped.

He stood there in my heated house wearing a full snowsuit: snow pants, winter jacket with toque on under the hood and the one boot and mitt. I pulled up a chair to the back door where he seemed rooted and read to him. After a half hour I took out a d'Aulaire and a Macaulay book hoping one of the illustrations would entice him and asked him to pick one. A single finger from the un-mittened hand slowly emerged and pointed to Pyramids. He even took the invitation to sit down on another fold out chair beside me. I added a few minutes of silence at the end of each page so he could examine the pictures: I knew he was looking because I could see his eyelashes lower and twitch. We sat like that till his mother arrived twenty minutes later. I never did see his face nor hear his voice.

The following week his resolute mother brought him back and again left him standing in the snowbank outside my back door. I opened it and said we could read some more of the pyramid book if he came inside. He did and this time agreed to take off both mittens and both boots but kept on his winter jacket and toque. He willingly walked with me to the couch and sat beside me. I asked him if he remembered what we had read last week. He nodded. I asked if he wanted me to read more. He nodded. After about five pages I asked him to read the next page. He did and from then on we alternated. We would pause and talk about the story and the pictures and wonder. I finally had a conversation while looking into the sweet face of a nine year old boy. I stopped reading before the end of the book figuring I needed the rest of it to get him back into my house for the next week.

It's been a couple of months now and just last week he walked for the first time by himself all the way from school to my home. We chat and read and joke and laugh. It is the story in the living book that can bring strangers like us together. It is that book that can transport us to faraway places and execute leaps in our imagination. That perfect book can also encourage one to shed the barrier of a snowsuit.


  1. I love how you scaffolded this little boy into the world of living books by joining him where he was.

  2. What an inspirational story! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  3. Jennifer this is so lovely.

  4. Sandy Rusby Bell18 June 2014 at 09:57

    This makes my heart sing.

  5. Singing indeed, Sandy. I am blessed to be able to celebrate milestones with children other than my own. Oh, to see their eyes light up in surprise and satisfaction on what they are accomplishing.

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