For the book report assignment, I read Thank you, Mr. Falkner, a children’s book written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. The book was published in 1998 by Philomel Books in New York City. The narrative consists of an autobiography in which Polacco details her struggle with reading, social relations and education.
The story does not explicitly state the protagonist’s disability. However, the constant struggle with learning how to read and the confusion with letters leads the audience to understand that the protagonist has Dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a disability that creates deficits in word recognition. Individuals who have dyslexia struggle with word decoding, spelling, and accurate word fluency. This is partially due to issues with phonological and phonemic awareness, which help identify and manipulate sound structure in language. Dyslexia is characterized as a learning disability because it impacts the ability of individuals to learn language skills
In Thank you, Mr. Falker Polacco encapsulates her experience in educational settings. Because her family valued literacy, including her mother who was a school teacher, Polacco reveals her excitement about learning and reading before she began first grade. However, as the year goes on, Polacco’s protagonist becomes frustrated that she cannot acquire reading and mathematical skills at the same pace as her peers. This leads the character to feel isolated from the rest of the classroom. Because she lacks an explanation for her disability, she begins to internalize negative ideas about herself, including that she is dumb and therefore unteacheable.
The story takes on a dramatic shift when Polacco’s family decides to leave their Michigan farm and move to California after her mother receives a new employment opportunity. Polacco hopes that attending school in California will become a more fulfilling experience, but is quickly disappointed when her issues with literacy continue and her peers begin taunting her more harshly.
Polacco’s 5th grade teacher, Mr. Falker, becomes critical to her self-empowerment. A popular teacher due to his eccentric wardrobe, Mr. Falker is appreciated for not playing favorites. He sees value in all of his students including Polacco. He praises her for her artistic abilities, and stops her bullies from hurting her.