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Jaz Stern, 16 Apr '15

It was a typical summer Wednesday morning for the kindergarden class of John A. Gordon Public School. The day was bright and sunny, and the kids were inside with their Reading Buddies, a fifth grade class that got shuffled down to the ground floor on a weekly basis to bestow their guidance upon the unformed minds of Mr. Hartis's kindergarden class. Pairs of Reading Buddies were dispersed across the carpet of the wide kindergarden classroom, some forming larger clusters in the centre of the room.

Sasha, a small, slight girl of five with a dark, messy page-cut bob and wide brown eyes sat in a corner of the room next to the door that stood propped open to the back field, staring out on concrete that surrounded the school. She was feeling deeply dismayed. In the doorframe sat an older girl, her supposed Reading Buddy, along with a friend. They were chatting about something or other, the sun outlining their shapes in a way that looked pretty, Sasha thought. But none of it mattered though, not at all. You see, today was not an entirely typical day after all.

"Can we read?" The plaintive request came out quietly, almost a whisper. Sasha was a shy, quiet girl who didn't participate well. At least, this is what the kindergarden teacher, Ms. Hartis had written on Sasha's last report card. The evaluation had upset Sasha, who felt the judgement grossly incorrect and unfair in the extreme. She was not shy. She simply did not want to talk to anyone.

After a moment's pause it was clear that the Reading Buddy hadn't heard. With a considerable trepidation Sasha inched forward, shuffling closer on her hands and knees until she was close enough to reach out, small hand fisting in the cotton sleeve of the fifth grader's shirt. The older girl glanced down, eyebrow furrowed. "What?" Sasha recoiled slightly at the tone, loud and abrasive. Was her Reading Buddy mad?

"Can we read?" She asked again, staring patiently at the girl, willing her to understand.

"Uh, what'd you want to read?" the older girl enquired, not looking particularly interested in the answer. Sasha started at this, frowning down at the carpet in contemplation. She'd never been asked that before, just been given a book. After a moment of serious deliberation she picked up A Very Hungry Caterpillar, a favorite of hers, and held it out. Her reading buddy, already back to talking with her friends, waved her off.

"Yeah, sure, you read it."

Sasha slumped where she sat. The Big Hungry Caterpillar hit the floor while her other hand went to pick at the carpet underneath her knees. She was unhappy, and frankly, she was appalled. You see, as previously mentioned, this was not an entirely typical day. Today the teachers had decided to switch it up. Just for this week everyone got a new reading buddy.

And now Sasha was stuck here, with a Reading Buddy who wouldn't read to her, utterly at a loss. She wasn't sure what the older girl's name was, but she did know she wasn't Sasha. Her regular reading buddy, that is, who was also named Sasha, much to the delight of their respective teachers -- they had called it a coincidence, a word Sasha hadn't understood. But what she did understand, very clearly, was that her current Reading Buddy was obviously too dumb to know what she was supposed to be doing. With a sigh Sasha looked around, trying to see what situations other people were in, and to her surprise, she spotted similar scenes of non-reading all across the classroom.

Sasha frowned, a strange thought occurring to her. Before she hadn't paid attention to what happened around her during Reading Time -- she had been reading. But now, with nothing to do, she was starting to think that maybe, just maybe -- most people didn't read during Reading Time.

The thought affected her profoundly. Eyes roving the classroom, she caught sight of her reading buddy, her real reading buddy, Sasha, bent over a book with Dylan. Sasha was a brown-skinned girl with eyes set far apart on a kind face. She was quiet and mild-mannered, with a smile that always made Sasha feel special. She'd sit behind you, wrapping her arms around your sides and flipping the pages with you. Never impatient, she'd let you read as much of a sentence as you could until she's take over, prompting with a word, letting you finish by yourself. When you did she'd clap and say "Good job." and give you that smile, the one that's just for you. Sasha had come to enjoy the weekly Reading Time very much, and had assumed that everyone else must too.

But now, as she stared across the loud, boisterous classroom, a realization was dawning on her, and that realization was that her Reading Buddy was magic, obviously. There was no other explanation -- she was the perfect reading buddy. Her perfect reading buddy. It couldn't be denied. Why else would she be named Sasha? It was too good to be simply luck, she knew. Her reading buddy had to be magic, a special gift send to her by the faeries, like the ones in the fairytales she sometimes read.

Sasha sat there quietly for the rest of the morning, extremely bored, and for the first time felt true, deep-running gratitude. After all, it wasn't every day you were granted a magical gift, and Sasha, having been educated on the matter earlier in the year during Thanksgiving Week, knew that she had to be thankful for the good things in her life.