Most of my friends have at least one parent that speaks fluid English. Unfortunately, I don’t. I didn’t speak English as a child I was taught Spanish and didn’t know any other language aside from that until I started prekindergarten. Learning the basics of how to speak it wasn’t too bad since I could just repeat whatever the teachers would say, or I would wait for someone else to speak. Reading and writing however, was a much different story. I knew my ABC’s and I could make sense of what other said to me but saying it myself and writing them are two completely different things. No one at school or home ever pushed me to try and read books or practice writing anything. My parents didn’t know how to speak English so no matter how much they wanted to help they couldn’t. In second grade I was still having trouble reading. This same year we were introduced to popcorn reading, my worst nightmare. The concept of the game was that someone would read a paragraph before calling out another student’s name and they had to pick up where the other kid left off. Every time we popcorn read I had to mentally prepare and attempt to read ahead so I could sound off the words in my head, so I wouldn’t mess up when I read out loud, but it never seemed to work. Whenever someone would look over my way I would lower my gaze or shake my head at them, so they would know not to pick. But, me telling them no or avoiding eye contact made them one to pick me. My heart would sink to the pits of the underworld every time I heard someone say my name. Every open house my teachers would tell my parent the exact same things “Señora, su hijo es muy inteligente pero tienen que ayudarlo a leer.” My mom would nod and promise to help me which she did. She bought this little bilingual dictionary and a little translator that would help me and her. I barely made it through the rest of the year because that translator was my holy grail. I clearly remember when I started third grade the teacher talked about the focus we would have in reading and math since we would be taking a very important test at the end of the year. My heart quivered at the thought of taking an important reading test. Most kids by this time could fluently reading with any problem but I was reading at a first-grade level. A couple of parent meetings later my teacher expressed her deep concern for my difficulty reading. She asked my parents for permission to stay for tutorial and have extra practice hours with her. Every time I would say something wrong she would tell me what the word meant in Spanish and asked me to repeat it in English. I was almost always at school by six thirty every morning and was the last one to leave. We started by reading baby books and worked our way in to bigger books. We read books like “Too Many Tamales” or “En Mi Familia; In my Family” books that had a little bit of Spanish in them. She was so marveled at my improvement she was sure I was ready to start reading a bigger book on my own. The first chapter book I ever read from start to finish was “The Border” by Steve Schafer. One day she asked me to stay a little bit after class because she had something important to tell me. After class she opened a drawer under her desk and handed me a nicely wrapped gift. She stood in front of me and with tears in her eyes she hugged me tightly and whispered to me “I am so proud of you. I always knew you could do it.” I didn’t open her gift until I was in my room alone. I gently removed the wrapping and there it was. She had given me a book. A book that has changed my life and instilled the love I have for reading today. She had given me her copy of “The Border” and “The House on Mango Street”. Inside read a little note “Cesar, In the beginning of this year you started an amazing journey. You work very hard and not once were you discouraged. Mijo, I am a lifetime’s worth proud of you and I want you to always remember that “Un poco más de persistencia, un poco más de esfuerzo, y lo que parecía irremediablemente un fracaso puede convertirse en un éxito glorioso. -Elbert Hubbard. I looked down on the note as tears streamed down my face and with a small breath I said “Gracias.”
Cesar Flores was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. He is a first generation Mexican-American who graduated High School and is currently enrolled in college. He has worked all his life going from one place to another but always fights for something better. He walks the border that separates Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas everyday and is constantly gathering new ideas for new pieces of writing.
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