On a November day in 1957 I found myself standing in front of Miss Grosier’s first grade class in Hillcrest Elementary School, trying to think of a really good word. She had us playing this game in which each kid had to offer up a word to the class, and for every classmate who couldn’t spell your word, you got a point—provided of course that you could spell the word. Whoever got the most points received the coveted gold star.
“Bouillabaisse,” I said, finally.
“You don’t even know what that is,” Miss Grosier scolded.
“It’s fish soup.”
“You can’t spell that.”
“Come here. Write it,” She demanded.
I wrote it. She looked it up, and admitted that is was, indeed correct.
Easiest gold star I ever won. And right here, right now, I’d like to thank, albeit somewhat belatedly, whoever wrote the Donald Duck comic book in which I found the word bouillabaisse. Also, I’d like to thank my mother who read me that comic book and so many others when I was four and five…. I learned to read from those session long before I started school. While most of my classmates were struggling with See Spot Run, I was reading Superman. I knew what indestructible meant, could spell it, and would have cold-bloodedly used it to win another gold star if I hadn’t been banned from competition after bouillabaisse.
Jim Shooter, as quoted in The Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen
Photo: Daniel Bönnighausen via Flickr