Dear Sherman Alexie,
Your story and your mission to help others are simply amazing. Recently I came across an essay you had written called “Superman and Me”. I was truly touched by some of the similarities I have to your own upbringing. Even though you grew up as a Native American boy on a Indian Reservation in Washington State, I was still able to greatly identify with you even though I grew up in a completely different environment as a “Mixed” girl from Brooklyn, New York.
Growing up I was a struggling reader. I used to get embarrassed whenever I was supposed to read something out loud in class because sometimes the words would look like they were from another language. I can remember some of my classmates teasing me about it when I was in Elementary school. I got to the point where I would pray that a teacher wouldn’t call on me to read something. It seemed like the years would pass me by and my reading would just stay the same. It was also during this time when I was first labeled as being learning disabled which did not help with my self-esteem. Luckily for me, I ended up meeting an amazing teacher who changed my life forever.
In 4th grade I met Mr. B. I remember him as a young teacher with a passion for helping his students. He would always tell me that I was much smarter than I thought and that I was my own worst enemy for not believing in myself. He also told me that he was going to make me enjoy reading. Thinking back, I didn’t believe him at all, this is something I heard from my other teachers time and time again. One day, Mr. B told me he got me a book to read during free reading time in school and at home. I remember him telling me he thought that I would really like it. However, when he handed me the book I was quite surprised. This was not like the other books my teachers had asked me to read. This one was full of pictures, full of cartoons. It was a collection of comic strips. It was Calvin and Hobbes! I instantly wanted to read it and I think my teacher had picked out this “book” for me because of my well-known obsession with tigers. Little did I know at the time but these comic strips about a boy and his stuffed tiger were going to change my life forever.
I went home that day and I begged my mom to read it with me. I flew through the book and I wanted more. I began to look for comics wherever I could find them. I loved reading the cartoons in the Newspaper. I loved to read in general. I started to even read my mother’s gossip magazines. Before I knew it wasn’t so scared to read in class.
So I decided to write you to thank you for all you have done. I love that you are now helping others like yourself to find a passion for reading and keep it up. Their needs to me more people like you and Mr. B to make sure more struggling readers do not fall through the class. Keep up the good work.