A Book About Becoming Literate: For Me It Has Been A long Journey

Hats Off! Lynda Mullaly Hunt for writing Fish in a Tree! It is engaging, serious, fun and may help others to focus on the possibilities of literacy for all.  And thank you Maria Montoya for bringing the book back into my life.

Fish in a Tree is a novel for young people. Moreover, it is a novel that would have real value for teachers and aspiring teachers. Plus, the parents of both children who learn differently and children who learn relatively normally could benefit from reading this story. The reason I think it has great value to be read by many audiences is because of the topic the author explores and the manner in which she presents it.
This is a story of a sixth-grade girl, Ally, who is not able to read in any functional manner. It is also the story of her peer relationships, family relationships and relationships to school and school people. Those human relationships and the authentic glimpse of the struggle of one nonreader are at the core of this book.

I was illiterate until I was eighteen. I learn differently than most. I am now sixty- nine and I have been a first and third grade teacher, an elementary principal, and a superintendent. I have earned a doctorate and have taught at the university level. I have some firsthand knowledge on this topic and my belief is that the ensuring that all students become literate cannot result from adopting a simple teaching method.

Helping someone to learn who learns differently requires teachers, parents and others to embrace complexity. This novel conveys the complexities of who Ally is and what makes her unique. Moreover, as this novel points out very well – helping others to learn who learn differently requires that teachers, parents, and others see possibilities and help the nonreaders to see possibilities as well. Each learner must be connected with as a unique individual and be appreciated and respected for their current strengths. It takes teachers, parents and others who can see the positive future in the learner even if the learner may not see it. Then, of course, our focus is to help the learner to see how their own, maybe highly unique, path to literacy can be built.

My path, like the paths of many others, to literacy has not been smooth. Learning to read at eighteen for me has meant that even today I am a slow, sometimes plodding reader that still stumbles as I strive for solid comprehension. Moreover, as an oral reader I am prone to skip and/or incorrectly pronounce words – my grandchildren have learned to gently correct me.

Overall, I have learned to stick with the text and reread when I am missing the message. At sixty-seven, I am still learning to write – oh my am I pleased that spell check was invented. I stick with my writing, too. Rewriting and reworking until I am comfortable sharing. Being literate did not come easy to me and it is not smooth sailing, even now. The turning point for me and Ally was seeing that it was ‘possible’!

Hats Off! Lynda’s book tells a story that can help others to see the possibilities of literacy for all.


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