Bullied into reading

Bullied into reading

Her name was Mrs Mak, and she was a stern middle-aged woman with a complexion scarred by intense battles with pimples in her youth.

I can't say I liked her very much. Unlike some of my other teachers, she was neither warm nor motherly. It didn't help that she once flung my rain-soaked arithmetic exercise book out the window from our classroom on the third floor.

"Like hum choy," she said in disgust, using the Cantonese phrase for salted vegetables.

Anyway, one morning, my classmates and I trooped into the school hall to see what the travelling book-peddler had brought to sell. I was drawn to the pop-up books because they had very few words and many colourful 3-D pictures and was happily browsing through one when Mrs Mak came along and boxed my ears.

"Don't waste your money on this," she hissed before yanking the book from my hand.

She grabbed me by the arm and led me to a table strewn with works by Enid Blyton.

She picked one up and thrust it into my hands. It was The Secret Seven.

"Buy this instead," she commanded imperiously.

I was too traumatised to disobey her even though I actually had no intention of buying any books.

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