Portrait in Words.

He bounces in and sits down, propping his elbows on the too-high table, like he’s ready for the next huge helping of the English language. Squirrel teeth show in a game grin. He’s ready. I pass him a writing lesson.
This phase lasts about ten minutes. I know. He gets bored, tries to make increasingly complex sentences, and goes ‘Awww,’, like the other team just scored, if he gets something wrong.
By the time another five minutes are up, his head tilts, slightly, to see the book for the reading test of the day. I see him glance through the corners of his eyelashes: Do I see he’s looking at the book?
A few seconds later, he makes a lightning-fast grab for the book. I’m there faster because I’ve been waiting for this. “Remember to ask, J. Then you can read.”
He grins. “Read? Now?”
I point to the paper in front of him. “Finish this page. Then you can read.” He sighs gustily.
Two minutes later: “Teacher?”
He gets a raised eyebrow from me. ‘teacher’ may be a Korean name of respect, but he’s in Canada now. I have a name.
“Ah-nee,” he corrects himself, tells himself ‘no’ in Korean. “El. Can I read?”
“Did you finish?”
He looks at his paper. “No.” He has two questions to go.
“Finish those. Then you can read.”

The kid loves to read. He loves navigating the pitfalls of a word like ‘laughed’. If I circle the word in the running reading chart as one he’s had trouble with, he points and says it right, trying to make me erase the circle. Eyes dancing all the time.

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