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The little boy, age six, had two silver caps where his front teeth should have been. Speculation was he must have been raised on sugary drinks instead of milk.
He had awful, stale-smelling breath, such as I had never before experienced on a child. He could barely read and didn’t care. His attention span was impossibly short.
I was participating in a reading program for first-graders in a public school in a disadvantaged neighborhood. The program took place every day, with different volunteers on a rotating basis. We’d get a 10-minute training session and then meet our kids, one on one, two children, half an hour each.
The trainers asked us to work on specific reading skills each time, but this boy was too easily distracted. He made jokes or fussed.
I tried to find out if he knew how to brush his teeth. He said yes, but I didn’t believe him. I wondered if he was hungry. He never admitted to it.
The school had a free breakfast program, but the teachers told me some kids arrived too late and missed it; they implied this was another sign of chaos in the kids’ homes.
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