Posted by: krusty505 | June 4, 2011

The Worldly Child

We use a web-based literacy program at the jail. It helps develop both the physical and mental skills necessary to improve reading: scanning with the eyes, not the head (many of the guys read like they’re watching a tennis match!); broadening the field of vision; increasing reading speed; remembering sequences of letters and numbers; developing vocabulary usage in  context; and providing a wealth of content and questions to help with comprehension. The teacher who chose it for us was either a savant or lucky or both because it’s a great program and is the catalyst for many of the guys to really start committing to their own learning.

I have this one student who is particularly keen on the reading program; he works on it voraciously and rarely stops to chat or socialize with the other inmates. I mean this guy is laser focused. Incidentally, he has tattoos of wings on the top of his head and several on his neck. The inmates call him Child’s Play (I have no idea why, nor do I want to know), and he sucks on a plastic spork 24/7. He’s something to see, but he’s smart as a whip. So one day I asked him why he was so fired up about the reading program. Below is his story:

“I’m just really proud of what I’ve done with the reading program.”


“Because I taught myself how to read, so I’m just really proud of my success.”

“What do you mean you ‘taught’ yourself how to read?”

“My mother was really religious, so when I was two, she took me out of school to home school me because she didn’t want me to become a ‘worldly child.'”

“A worldly child? WTF does that mean?”

“You know. Like knowing the ways of the world and being tempted by sin. She didn’t want me to be exposed to other kids, so she yanked me out of school.

Anyway, she didn’t teach me shit. Basically we just went to church a lot. I’d sit right next to the pastor, and then afterward I’d be out gang banging and shit, but when I got to be 14, the school started hassling her about me not being in school, so she put me in Manzano High School.

Well, I was always getting in trouble because I couldn’t do any of the work; I couldn’t read, and I couldn’t do math or any of that shit, and I was used to gang banging, so that’s what I did. They put me in special ed., and my teacher asked me why I didn’t do any of the work. I told her I didn’t know how to read. She was like, ‘What do you mean?’ and I said I never learned how to read, so she canceled the rest of her classes, brought in all these kids’ books and taught me how to sound out the words. I mean, they were like books for little kids and shit. It was kind of embarrassing, but it worked because I learned how to sound out words and shit. I really owe her for that.

Anyway, I got kicked out of school, and eventually I got arrested and was thrown into seg. (short for segregation where they are locked down-forced to be in their tiny cells-23 hours a day). There wasn’t shit to do, so I picked up this book, “Jaws” about that shark, you know? I thought back to Ms. Mary D, and I figured I could teach myself how to read that book, so that’s what I did. I just sat with it until I could read it, and that’s how I started reading books. Before I came to jail, I had never read a book before.

Seriously, I really owe Ms. Mary D. for that. She was like the only teacher who ever taught me anything. That’s why I remember her name and shit. I wish I could thank her for that. Oh well.”

I swear, I must have been sitting there with my jaw in my lap because like three other guys chimed in with, “It’s true, Pauls. Before jail, I never read a book before.”

I’m so tempted to editorialize on this story, but I think it speaks for itself, so I’m going to just let it do that.



  1. I’m glad I know Mary D and glad Child’s Play knows her, too.

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