Shy Girl

A first-grader at my children’s school was sitting by herself at the playground.

When I volunteered in her classroom recently, everyone told me that she is very shy. She apparently doesn’t say a single word all day long. When she and I were reading together, every child walking past would assure me that “She’s really shy.”

I asked her if she likes it when people say she’s shy. Slow shake of her head. I asked her what she would like to say to people who tell her she’s shy. “I don’t know,” she whispered. I asked her if she’d like to say, loudly, “Mind your own beeswax!” I got a tiny smile and a shake of her head, “No.”

Yesterday, my 5-year-old daughter and I were on playground duty, helping referee recess. I saw this girl all by herself way off in the corner of the playground.

We walked over and I held out my hand. “Would you like to walk with us,” I asked? I expected her to ignore me, or hide behind her hair, or walk away.

She stood up. And slipped her hand in mine.

As we were walking, I asked her if she’d been reading. A small, silent nod. I leaned over and told her she was my favorite reader. And got another tiny smile.

The playground has a raised concrete border around the woodchip area. We started balancing on the border and the game became “Train” with my first-grader friend in the lead. I asked kids as we passed whether they’d like to join our train. Soon a line of kids was walking behind us, balancing on the train tracks.

My first-grader friend stayed in the lead until the bell rang.