June 3, 2002


“Read this for the Racers,” Grandma Ellen* said to four-year-old Lucy and handed her an email that had arrived earlier that morning. The email described efforts to medically treat an adult woman who had leukemia.      

The precocious, slender little girl sat on a chair facing the table that served as a desk for the Racer’s two home-schooled children – a senior and a sophomore. Lucy’s mother had woven her daughter’s thick black hair into two beautiful, long pigtails.


Lucy’s birth father, a black man, had no involvement in her life. Barb, her white mother, had struggled to keep things together for the two of them, while Ellen and Roger, the grandparents, did everything possible to help.


When Lucy was three, Barb married Ron. The new father took a deep interest in the little one.


Ellen remembered how quickly Barb and her older sister had learned to read. They had always been a reading family.


Ellen put up signs written in big letters all around her house and pointed at the words, sounding them out for Lucy. As a two-year old, Lucy told grandma Ellen, “I want to read.”


Lucy would crawl up on Ellen’s lap while grandma read to her. Lucy began sounding out the words and then took the book from Ellen’s hands and began reading the words herself. Roger read to her at bedtime. Sometimes she read to Roger.


They sang songs together. Lucy quickly picked up the lyrics. She sang well, too.


On the day that she read the email, the quality of her reading stopped the Racers in amazement. They listened as she read perfectly and free-flowing every adult word on the page, save one or two medical terms – grandma interpreted those.


Lucy read at least at a 10th grade level – perhaps beyond.


“Wow!” home school mom Racer said. “That is incredible!”


“I know adults that can’t read like that,” home school dad Racer said. “I know many, and they have been through high school and beyond.”


“Lucy went to kindergarten the other day for evaluation,” Ellen explained. “Barb wants her to start school early.”


Lucy had attended a class for three hours where the teacher observed her and interacted with her. “What is your home phone number?” teacher asked.


“I don’t know, but I know grandma’s,” Lucy said and rattled off the 10-digit number.


“Here Lucy, would you draw a picture of your family?” teacher asked.


“No, I don’t care to,” Lucy respectfully responded. This astounded the teacher, but Lucy prefers to do her artwork on a computer.


No one asked Lucy to read at the kindergarten screening.


A few days later, the principal called Barb. “We think your daughter might be ready for early admittance but we have a few concerns.


“She needs to work on cooperation, and we were surprised she did not know her phone number. So before we make a decision, we would like her to meet with the school psychologist.”


Lucy had been tagged as a potential school problem.


But nobody asked Lucy to read.

 * No real names are used here, although this narrative describes a true story.

Problem child in the making?

Pre-screening precocious child

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