Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Little Girl Who Does Not Read and Write

There was a little girl who did not know how to read or write. She was completely illiterate. Com-plete-ly il-lite-rates are people who can not read and write.

Now, the little girl could talk perfectly of course. And on top of that she could sing, dance, scream her head off, ski, swim, climb trees and do many other things. She could even stand on her hands, hang her head upside down and walk around like that.

If you show her a picture of a Blue Whale and ask her what it is, she would jump with joy and while she is still jumping she would tell you it is a Blue Whale! That little girl was a handful her mother said. Her name was a mouthful her father said. Her father like many fathers was away while she was born. So her mother named her mouthful because she screamed a lot when she was just born a baby.

So, the girl with the mouthful name could do many things and could not read or write. Although she had fun most of the time there were times when she could not have as much fun because she could not read or write. Like that one time when she went to the cinema with a friend. Her friend said she would go and get the ice-cream and asked the girl with the mouthful name to buy the tickets. ‘Let’s watch a fun movie today. I feel like laughing a lot’ – said her friend. ‘Me too. Yippee!’ – jumped the mouthful name girl with joy. When she reached the ticket counter she saw posters of many movies all around her. There was a poster with a little girl and a toy and another one with a whale and big waves. ‘The whale and the wave one looks scary’ – thought the mouthful girl. ‘The one with the little girl looks more fun. I will buy tickets for them’, she decided. At the counter she said – ‘Give me two tickets for that one with the little girl and her toy please’.

Her friend came back with the ice-creams and they went into the hall. But my-goodness-me, do you know what happened? It so turned out that the movie with the little girl and her toy was a scary one where the toys were ghosts. They came out of the movie terrified and almost in tears. ‘But I told you I wanted to watch a fun movie?’ her friend complained. ‘Oh, I thought it would be a fun one because there was the little girl and her toy on the poster’. ‘But the poster also said it is a scary movie. Be warned! Didn’t you read that?’ The girl with the mouthful name did not say anything because she could not read and write. She told herself she would learn to read and write soon.

When they reached home her friend went home to read and write because she would learn to read and write for an hour everyday. That way, her friend could read all the comics, the posters and even signs on the shops and the road. Although she could not read them all, the friend liked figuring them out.

Our little girl with the mouthful name thought, ‘I must also learn to read and write. But it is so boring. I would rather watch TV’ So she went home and sat down to watch TV instead of learning to read and write. ‘I will learn from tomorrow’, she told herself.

Many days passed like that. But the girl with the mouthful name would not sit down to read or write. Every time it was time to do it, she would think of doing something else. She would go out and play, watch TV, play games on the computer or throw a tantrum. So she never learnt to read and write. Her mother was a busy woman. She had to work and look after the house and both of them. So she had asked Meera, the girl who comes to cook and clean for them, to teach the girl with the mouthful name how to read and write. ‘As soon as you learn to read and write a little I will put you to a school’, her mother said. The little girl was not sent to school till now because they have been travelling from one place to another and her mother thought she could learn to read and write at home. ‘I will put her to school when she grows a little older’, her mother thought, ‘This way she can spend a lot of time at home and have more fun’

But everyday when Meera would ask her to bring her books, the little girl would come with one excuse or the other. ‘My stomach is paining’, ‘Mom said I do not have to do it today’, ‘I am very tired’, ‘can we start tomorrow please?’… her excuses were endless and not original. I know a lot of children who use these excuses to avoid doing things that they are asked to do. So the girl with the mouthful name kept on making excuses and a few more incidents happened in between.

There was a time when she was supposed to meet her friends at ‘tennis court number 3’ in the local club. ‘It would be written outside’ her friends told her. But she had to wait for a long time till someone came along and showed her where court number 3 was because she could not even read the numbers. Then there was a time when a cousin of her who lives far away sent her 2 packets of chocolates with a note. ‘One for you and one for Yana’ the note said. Yana is their other cousin. But the girl with the mouthful name ate both the chocolates because she could not read the note. That not only gave her a bad stomach ache but also made her mother very angry. She got scolded for being selfish and greedy.

There are many incidents like these that I know of which happened to many little girls and boys because they could not read or write. Many of these children do not get a chance to learn to read and write. Mostly because they are poor (poor is somebody who does not have many things). But to tell all to you, oh my wise little friends, it will take a long time. So let me tell you how the girl with the mouthful name finally learned to read and write.

Although she did not go to a school, the girl with the mouthful name really wanted to go to one. There was a particular school that she really liked. It had a lovely play ground with soft green grass on it. There were a few swings, a slide and a small train on the playground. She has seen many little children like her playing in the playground. ‘Oh, what fun it will be to play there’ thought the little girl. ‘And I particularly like their green, orange and blue dresses’. There was also a beautiful garden with rows of flowers that had every colour. But she needed to know ‘At least her letters’, the principal of that school said when they went there some time ago. ‘There is still a little time till school starts again. You can learn to read and write at home in the meantime. This would help you understand things and do well in class’ the plump and pleasant woman had said from under her glasses.

So her mother had asked Meera to teach the little girl with the mouthful name how to read and write. And we all know by now how she kept on postponing it. Po-st-po-ning means to keep things for later when you could have done it now.

One day, after a few months from the day they went to the school, the little girl was playing at home. Her mother was at work and Meera had gone to throw out the garbage. Just then a delivery man came and gave the girl with the mouthful name a letter. He said it was an urgent letter and she must give it her mother. The little girl said thank you to the delivery man and looked at the paper. It looked similar to the papers she was making paper things with. Her mother had given her those papers saying ‘these are for recycling. You can use these papers to make paper things. This way we save paper’.

The little girl was busy making paper crowns for her friends and herself. They wanted to play ‘princesses’ that evening. She took the letter with her and soon forgot about it. She made 3 crowns that day. A pink one with little silver stars on it. This was her favourite. She wanted it for herself. The second one was green with shiny red flowers on it. And the third one was yellow with balloons of many colours on it. In the evening when her mother came home she was out playing ‘princesses’ at her friend’s place. She got to wear the pink crown and she was very happy.

A few days later, her mother came back from work looking very worried. ‘I met someone from the school you really like’, said her mother, ‘she said they sent a letter for me. But I never saw any letter’.

‘Oh!’ said the girl with the mouthful name, ‘I forgot all about the letter’

‘Forgot about the letter? Where is it? What did it say?’ mother asked looking even more worried.

‘I do not know what it said. I could not read it. I was playing with my papers and I kept it with them. It must be there’ she ran to get the papers.

Her mother looked through all her papers but could not find the letter. ‘What were you doing with your papers?’ asked her mother.

‘I was cutting them with scissors and making paper crowns’

Oh no! You must have cut it up thinking it was one of your papers. If only you could read! You would know that the letter said something urgent about you and the school. Anyway, now we have to meet the principal tomorrow and find out what it said. May be it is about your going to that school’

The little girl could not sleep very well that night. She was very excited about the letter. She thought the letter said she could go to that school and she saw a dream where she was playing in the beautiful garden with colourful flowers in the nice orange, green and blue school dress.

In the morning before going to work, her mother made her wear a nice blue dress and they went to the school. At the principal’s office there were many people waiting. There were many children with their elders and some older people without any children with them. When their turn came, the little girl’s mother explained to the principal that they had received a letter and but had lost it. They would like to know what it was about.

‘Oh! You did not see the letter? I had sent it asking you to come to the school as soon as possible. The admissions for the new classes were going on and I wanted the girl with the mouthful name to come to this school’ the plum principal said pushing her glasses up her nose. ‘When I did not hear from you I gave her place to someone else and now there is no more place in the school’

‘Oh no!’ cried the girl and her mother. ‘Can you please not do something? ‘My daughter really loves this school and wants to come here’ the girl with the mouthful name’s mother pleaded.

‘I am very sorry. I would really like to help you. But as you can see, many people come to our school to get admission. But it is not possible for us to get everyone in as it is a small school. This year our places have all been taken. If you want to come to this school, you have to wait till next year’, the pleasant woman said with a smile.

The little girl and her mother walked back through the school feeling very sad. On her way back the girl with the mouthful name saw all the children playing on the playground. ‘If only I could read, I would know what the letter said. And then I could come and play here everyday’, the little girl thought.

‘And it will be more difficult for you to get a place next year because you will be older. You will have to know to read and write more’ her mother told her, giving her a hug.

‘From today, when Meera asks me to learn to read and write I will not make excuses. I will learn to read and write so that I can surely come to this beautiful school next year.

‘I promise I will try very hard and learn to read and write even more so that I can come to this school’ she hugged and told her mother.

The little girl kept the promise she made to her mother. And went to the school next year. There she learnt to read and write more. She also learnt to draw and count. She had lots of fun because she could tell the scary movies from the fun ones. Could read nice books and comics and also because she could do many things on the computer.

So my illiterate friends (illiterate means the ones who do not know how to read or write remember?), there are some people who can not read or write because they did not get a chance to learn it. But for those like you who are too lazy to learn, learning how to read and write can be fun. You can learn new things, have fun and at least know which one is a scary movie and which one is fun.