Charley’s World – Episode Five

Natty continued to make remarkable progress in her reading. When Nellie picked up Natty after three weeks into their after-school arrangement, she asked if she could come in for a minute. “Charley, I need a special favor. Natty has a parent-teacher meeting scheduled for next week. Could you go with me? I really need you to describe how you have been developing Natty’s reading ability.” Charley agreed.

The meeting was different from what Charley had expected. Natty had told her teacher about how Charley had helped her. “Charley, I’m really impressed by what you have done for Natty,” her teacher began. “Now I have a favor to ask. One of Natty’s classmates is Marco. He came here as a 3-year old with his Italian parents. They speak Italian at home. Marco could really use help.” Charley agreed to do what he could.

After arrangements were made for Marco to spend his time after school with Natty and Charley, Marco joined Natty on the bus to stop off at Charley’s home. At first, Charley wasn’t sure how to develop the joy in reading in Marco that he had developed with Natty. His daughter’s toys weren’t of interest to Marco. His English language skills were also a challenge because it was hard to sound out words. Charley remembered something his track coach had taught him, “Everyone has an energy button. When you find that button and push it, anything is possible.”

For Marco that energy button was a soccer ball sitting on the shelf. His daughter had just started playing soccer when she was killed. Charley set up a miniature soccer field in his detached garage. Then he developed a game where Marco would get to shoot at the goal whenever he completed a successful reading lesson.

What Charley worried about was that the attention he gave Marco would detract from Natty’s continued reading development. But that fear would go away on the first day. Charley got a phone call and had to leave Natty and Marco alone for a few minutes. When he returned he was surprised to see that Natty was helping Marco with his reading. He just stood there in amazement. He had nothing to worry about.

As fate would have it, the phone call was from a former colleague who had just retired. He had come to America many years ago from Italy. He knew Marco’s parents and agreed to help them develop their English skills. Charley began to realize that he was building a learning network.

At the end of the 90 minutes, Nellie arrived to take both children home. She returned the book Charley had given her and shyly asked if she could borrow another one. Charley never thought that he would also become a librarian, but he loved it.

Charley‘s days of loneliness and sadness were disappearing, but he had a major decision looming that would change his life.

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“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” – Anonymous

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