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Merritt: Tale of a teen who didn't like to read has storybook ending

Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl who had all the fantasies and dreams that 16-year-olds have, but read no books to develop her imagination.

“I don’t like to read books,” she said. “I’d rather watch videos and movies on my phone. It’s more real.”

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I’ve known my young friend since she was in middle school. She is bright, enthusiastic, kind, and has strong opinions about current topics that I don’t ever recall having had when I was her age.

Through the years, I occasionally gave her a book or two and thought surely, she would have read the non-fiction paperback given to her when she was 13. It was about dealing with the things that adolescent girls worry about. It even had a pink cover — a distinction not to be ignored when it comes to book selections and their covers chosen by young people (or older, for that matter).

Nevertheless, being the sweet girl that she is, she later admitted to me that, “I kind of looked through the pages but, no, I didn’t read it.”

Lately, there’s been a transformation in her attitude and it started with a gradual introduction to reading books by her English and American Sign Language teachers in her high school.

This year, prior to the second quarter which included English, she had expressed anxiety about having to read and she had doubts concerning a rumored, no funny-business teacher who required students to be on time, seated and ready to work at the sound of the bell. During this time, students were to write — not her favorite thing, either — on any topic for 15 minutes.

Last year, having taken ASL I and ASL II, she was also somewhat reluctant about taking the third sign language class — which began this past January — because other students had told her it was “really hard.”

Ultimately, as the classes progressed, my friend’s qualms regarding both subjects began to subside and she even liked Mr. No-Funny-Business.

She resumed her comfort with signing and, over a month ago, was assigned to choose a fiction book about the field of deafness — a subject of much interest to her ever since she took her first ASL class. Even so, she wasn’t looking forward to reading an entire book.

After making her choice, with the help of the media person in the school library, my friend later announced to me, “Guess what? I got a book today!”

And so began her interest in the story, page by page, chapter by chapter, as she talked about parts of the book to all who would listen, and exclaimed as she went along, “I finished a chapter today.”

I knew all was well the day she told me, “I love this book; it’s like watching a movie.”

Upon finishing the story, my friend was elated and proud, acknowledging that she had read and finished her first book — ever.

Around the same time, the English teacher assigned a book for the entire class to read and discuss. Her friends had talked somewhat negatively about the story and she was dreading the requirement of reading portions out loud in class. Still, she persisted and wound up liking the book — feeling comfortable about reading orally— thus adding another success to her accomplishment.

“I’ve read two whole books,” she said.

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Both readings required a summation and my friend spent much time mulling over the required information, writing, and checking her punctuation — areas in which she had been getting plenty of practice during English class.

As in many stories, there’s a moral to this one. It takes a village — parents, teachers, media personnel and aunts, uncles, and neighbors — to help a 16-year-old discover that reading books can be more exciting than watching videos and movies on a smartphone.

As a matter of fact, as of this writing, the young reader has finished the third book that was required for the ASL students. Again, she chose one at the school library, but admitted the subject matter involving a football player wasn’t particularly to her liking. Nonetheless, she has persevered, even liking some parts.

Since I prefer happy outcomes, this story doesn’t disappoint.

My friend was excited to receive two A’s — one for each summary — that has left her “feeling happily ever after” her third quarter and ready to go on to the fourth, with more books to come.

The End.

I wish you, my readers, much joy on this day which celebrates new life and new beginnings.

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