Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)
TITLE: Reading Between the Fingers
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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Renee looked up with surprise as a young lady entered the classroom. The teacher introduced her as Katie, a volunteer. A hearing volunteer, Renee could tell that much. She knew all about the hearing. After all, she’d been stuck with them for most of her ten years. All they cared about was making her conform. Fit in. Not stand out.
She had, too. She’d walked the walk, even if she couldn’t talk the talk. Until one day they’d discovered that she couldn’t read. Renee didn’t know what the big deal was, half the hearing kids couldn’t read, either.
Well, her mom thought it was a big deal and had taken her out of the public school and stuck her in the Deaf school, just like her dad had always wanted anyway. At first it had been kind of a shock. Everything was so different, and they used sign language so differently than the little Renee had been exposed to. But she’d caught on quickly. It had only been a few weeks, but already, for the first time in her life, she could communicate clearly.
She watched the volunteer fumble with the language as she talked with another student, and then settle into a smoother cadence. One thing Renee had gained from all her struggles--she was skilled at understanding others just from their facial cues and a million other little things that had nothing to do with words.
Oh great, here came the lady. She smiled and tapped Renee’s literature page, signing, “Need any help?”
Renee shrugged and looked away.
Katie sat down and angled the book a bit, catching the girl’s eye before raising her hand to ask, “Do you understand it?”
“Nothing.” She wasn’t sure she cared to, either.
“I’ll read a bit to you.”
Renee sighed and focused on Katie’s lips, hoping to catch a few helpful words here and there. But to her shock, Katie didn’t start speaking, but signing! She modified her sign language to follow the book’s word order and the story jumped to life.
Together they bent over the book, and slowly but ever so surely, the black and white forms on the page began to be more than “the hearing people’s language,” but were given meaning. And finally, Renee was given a glimpse of the world that awaited her deep inside the bookcase.
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