Melody explains what life is like at Spaulding Street Elementary School. She has been at the school for five years, and in that time she has watched, and been ignored by, most of the children at the school. Although she sees the general education students every day and watches them play, they never invite her or any of the other students with disabilities. Melody feels invisible.
Melody is in a special program called a “learning community,” with other students her age with disabilities. Melody feels that many of her school activities are too easy for her. She often feels that she has learned more television documentaries than from her teachers.
Melody has a communication board, a Plexiglas tray that has words written on it that attaches to her wheelchair. By pointing to certain words and phrases, she can communicate basic thoughts. She jokes that she can understand why people think she is stupid, because she does not have the ability to say very much at all. She also explains that some people think she is “retarded”, but clarifies that she hates that word. She is not dumb; she is trapped inside of her own mind.
Mrs. V is Melody’s next-door neighbor, and has essentially become a member of the family. Mrs. V became her babysitter when she was two. Unlike Melody’s parents, Mrs. V is willing to challenge her and make her struggle in order to teach her. This makes Melody stronger both physically and mentally. Mrs. V isn’t afraid to let Melody experience the world in full. She doesn’t assume Melody is fragile just because she has a disability, and this gives Melody a newfound sense of freedom and possibility.
Mrs. V demonstrates in this chapter that it’s crucial that Melody be respected and held accountable to her potential. Mrs. V sees no reason that Melody should not learn to read – learning to read is essential to Melody’s happiness and future success.