Eric Valesquez: What I remember about "Reading Group C"

Award-winning author and illustrator Eric Velasquez remembers his early experiences learning to read and being placed with other struggling readers in "Reading Group C." He reflects on how Reading Group C interacted with the rest of the students in the class and remembers the teacher who helped him learn to read. You can see the full interview with Eric in our Meet the Author section.


By the time I got to school, I could speak a little bit of English, but I was placed in something called Group C. And Group C was where they placed the, what's today called the Reluctant Readers. We just were the ones that struggled. It was the kids from Latin America, from South America, the kids that came from the South because that the migration was still on. So it was a late sixties, early seventies. So group C was a very interesting place, unfortunately, in that as long as we didn't interfere with groups A and B, so A of course were those advanced readers that kids that loved to read. And the ones in the middle were group B, and then us group C, as long as we didn't interfere with groups A and B, we were pretty much allowed to do whatever we wanted as long as we kept quiet. So I did a lot of doodling, and we played tic tac toe. We were just there to make groups A and B feel better about themselves. And that was what we were supposed to be there for. So at least once or twice a month, we had to all stand in front of the classroom and read. And it was really very humiliating at times because the kids would all laugh, and I always remember that they would feel so much better about themselves having seen us all struggle.

So it wasn't really until maybe about the third grade where this woman was an angel, Ms. Holmes, PS 57, where she really started paying a little more attention. I remember her telling me to sound out the words and taking my time, and I started to notice a difference. I mean, that's why the memory is still there for me. Soon after that, I discovered comic books, and suddenly it was on. That’s where if I didn't understand a word, I would ask my mom to help me, and she would say, “No, vayas al diccionario.” And I would have to fend for myself with the dictionary. But at time, it became my friend and really did, helped me advance with my reading quite a bit actually.