The day I entered Alta Loma elementary school, my mom walked me hand-in-hand to the kindergarten, introduced me to the teacher (can’t remember her name; I know my first grade teacher was Mrs. Benjamin, and my sixth Grade was Mrs. Turner) and said: “Hi, I was wondering if you’d watch Stevie for me today?”
A very sweet, very comforting way to introduce a child to the idea of school.
In kindergarten, I made two friends, Howard Kokubun and Lee Taylor, who were respectively Japanese and White. Didn’t mean squat to me—we were three musketeers, all for one and one for all, right?
My sister Joyce, three years older than me, taught me to read, and the first book was one called The Five Chinese Brothers. She read it to me a dozen times, until I could recite it by heart. Then I read it until I could identify each of the words. And then I had it!
Then in first grade, Mrs. Benjamin’s class, all the kids were divided into reading groups. I remember Lee and Howard were placed in a group composed of white and Asian kids. My group was black and Hispanic kids. “Wow!” I thought. “Wonder why Howard’s over there, not here with me?”
I found out a few minutes later. We were tested for reading by some older kids, fifth grade perhaps. They listened to the other kids struggling with their reading, and when it was my turn, I read better than the fifth graders. Embarrassed, they immediately took me out of the black group and put me in with the white kids. (more…)