I had heard a lot about Thank You, Mr. Falker. People had told me how it was a wonderful story about a little girl who had trouble learning how to read and the teacher who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that she would be successful. But I was not prepared for the very touching story I heard when the book was read to me.
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I am a third grade teacher, and the other day we had a staff meeting at the school where I work. The principal started out the meeting talking about how much of a difference we make in childrens' lives and how important it is to read aloud to our students every day. She then announced that she was going to read us a story and she pulled out a copy of Thank You, Mr. Falker.
What she read was the story of a young girl who was very eager to become a reader as she entered kindergarten. Her grandfather even held a ceremony where he poured honey on a book and told her how knowledge was sweet like honey but that it must be chased through the pages of a book.
The girl couldn't wait to read, but that was not going to happen for her in kindergarten. Her mother told her not to worry because she would surely learn to read in first grade. The years came and went and pretty soon the girl was in fifth grade. She still couldn't read. She had endured years of watching her friends move on to harder and harder books while she stayed behind in the baby books.
Her grandparents, who had always told her that she was smart and special, had died a couple of years prior. Also, her family had moved to California. At school the poor girl was teased incessantly because she couldn't read. The kids said she was dumb and called her all kinds of names. About the only thing the little girl felt she could do was draw, which she did all the time.
Her fifth grade teacher was new to the school. He was handsome and charming, and all of the kids wanted to be near him. However, Mr. Falker wasn't interested in how popular or smart a child was. He liked all of his students. Soon, he realized how horrible the little girl was being teased. He put an immediate stop to it and praised her for her wonderful drawings. He also helped the girl after school to give her the tools she would need to start reading.
Mr. Falker's dedication paid off. One day he handed the girl a book and she started reading it. Mr. Falker and another teacher who had walked in had tears in their eyes as the girl finally read a passage by herself. The girl was so happy about her new knowledge that after school she pulled out the book her grandfather had poured honey on so many years ago. She put some honey on it and tasted the sweetness of the knowledge she could now learn through books. She cried tears of joy.
Years later, the girl had grown up. She saw Mr. Falker at a wedding and approached him. She helped him figure out who she was and when he finally recognized her, he asked her what she did for a living. She proudly told him, "I make books for children." It was a very touching moment when the teacher realized exactly what a big impact he had on her life.
As it turns out, the little girl in the story is the author of the book. She really did have a learning disability as a child and had trouble learning to read. She wrote this story as a tribute to the teacher who took the time to make sure that she could become a reader just like everyone else.
After the principal had finished reading this book to the teachers, there was not a dry eye in the cafeteria. Every single one of us imagined a child we had come in contact with and thought about ways we could help them. After all, our goal is to make sure every single child learns how to read.
Later, I reflected on the story I had heard earlier in the day. I thought about how important a teacher is in the eyes of a child and how much of a difference we make in the lives of our students. I hope that I can be just like Mr. Falker and touch the lives of my children in such a positive way.
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