How Jack learned to read

Author Amélie Via

When I was in elementary school, a boy named Jack made it his personal mission to make my life hell.

When I told the teachers that he had hit me in the stomach, they said, “It’s only because he likes you.”

So basically if a boy likes me, he will hurt me emotionally and physically? You are supposed to teach me maths and English, not how to prepare for a toxic and abusive relationship.

In short, one day, he followed me into the girls’ bathroom and threw me against the sinks. When I told my teacher again, this time he was in trouble, not for hurting me, but for going to the girls’ bathroom. Because apparently entering women’s washrooms deserves more punishment than hurting someone.

He told the professor that I had provoked him.

We have both been punished …

While we both missed lunch time, sitting in the same room, alone with our teacher in his office a few meters away, I decided to ask him what was his problem.

Now imagine a tiny little redhead girl who probably had one of those temporary Pokémon tattoos and a Harry Potter book in her hand and who faces a tyrant at least 2x bigger than her, with serious anger issues. I was shaking, but I was also determined.

“Why do you not like me ?” That’s all I asked.

Jack looked at me for a few seconds, then he started to cry.

Normally, I would comfort a person in tears because I do not like to see people crying, but of course I was suspicious of him given all the times he had made me cry. Instead, I asked him why he was crying and I stayed at my desk.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Then he told me the whole story of his life by telling me how his father had gone and how his father-in-law had beaten him, how his mother had ignored him, how he had been locked in his room without food for two days, how he could not control his tantrums and how jealous he was of me.

I asked him why he was jealous of me, I did not understand. I was a nerdy redhead who wanted to be a vampire and read history books. I was not popular, I had nothing enviable.

He told me it was because I knew how to read. And he could not.

Despite the fact that he attended school for years, the teachers did not notice he could not read. That he was dyslexic. And that he was mistreated at home.

That night, after thinking, I decided to tell someone. The school was useless because they never believed me in anything. I was a very shy child and I felt stupid to tell my parents that I was being bullied and that I wanted to help my hangman.

I told my psychiatrist. She worked with children’s mental health services and in England it was free to consult her. I had suffered from various mental illnesses for most of my life. I knew my doctor was also working with social services, so I decided she was the right person to talk to. I told her everything Jack told me.

A few days later, he did not show up at school, it was about three days before I saw him and I was terrified. Terrified that he was going to hurt me because I had repeated.

Instead, he took me in his arms.

He told me that the visit of the social services had awakened his mother and that she had got rid of her boyfriend. He said that he went to see his father who lived on the other side of town and that his dad had abandoned the drugs and found a job (his mother refused to let him see his father). And then he apologized again.

At Christmas that year, he gave me a gift, two tickets to see The Killers. He said he did not understand why I loved them, but he wanted to give me something to show me how sorry he was. He had saved his pocket money to buy them for me. It was the kindest gesture in the world even though it fueled many preteens rumors that we were dating, which we were not.

I started giving him private lessons (which did not help the rumors) during school breaks, helping him to read using learning books and yellow plastic sheets to write the words. I gave him private lessons for two years until we left for high school and by that time he had a good reading level.

I still see him from time to time; he smiles and always asks me how am I going. He is in training to become an aeronautical engineer. He’s doing pretty well. I am happy for him. I think things could have been worse for him if his abuses had continued for more years.

I do not blame him at all, I forgave him the day he told me. What happened to him does not excuse his behavior, but it made me realize that not everyone has a happy family life.


Yesterday, while I was dating a friend, I came across Jack. We chatted and I showed him this story and the number of comments and positive votes it generated. He would like me to share what he wrote in response.

* When I was young, I hated my life and Amelie changed all that. I envied her because she always had the nose in books super thick. I just wanted to learn to read. I will always regret how I treated her for all these years, but fortunately she is not resentful and she has changed my life for the better.

I am studying to become an aeronautical engineer and it is definitely thanks to Amélie, I could never have passed my exams without her help while our teachers had abandoned me.

I would like to thank all the people who gave their support to Amélie, she really deserves it. She is a wonderful person.


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