Thursday, July 22, 2010

In a World of Red Fish

Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Weight: 2.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to Mrs. Sarah G.A.

The majority of people I know that revel in everything written learned to read at a very early (and brag-able) age. I did not. I could not read when I entered Mrs. Starky’s first grade class, despite my parents’ and grandparents’ valiant attempts to teach me. We read what I always thought was called KITTY CATS ARE LIKE THAT; in fact it was just called KITTENS. We read (I actually just listened) about Miss Suzy the Squirrel. I am also sad to report that my grandparents often whipped out LITTLE BLACK SAMBO and, at the time, I enjoyed it. Now, I cannot think about it without cringing. It is frustrating when you begin to realize how early systems of oppression start to network through your brain.

Mrs. Starky was on top of it. In no time, I was able to read my first book and read it I did. I read it to my best friend’s kindergarten class every week. I was so proud of myself. One week, Mrs. Starky recommended I change the book so that the students would not grow bored. I took her suggestion and chose some book that I forgot about long ago. The kids went into a revolt. They wanted Swimmy back and so did I.

I like to believe that at that young age we were drawn to the little black fish trying to make his way in a world of very hungry tunas and blasé red fish because we were developing little activists who already understood the importance of community and non-violent protest. I really do.

To me, this is the first book I ever read and, therefore, it is quite possibly the most important. It started off this whole love-affair that has carried me from there to here over a period of decades. I think that the person who would most appreciate this book is my dear friend Sarah. We love books in a similar way, and I know that she will understand how pivotal this one is. Sarah, my librarian, I love you. Take care of sweet Swimmy and use it to inspire a revolution in the child you will have when you are ready.

No comments:

Post a Comment