It's a story - it's a history - it's an inspiration. It's Linden Hill
Boston — ''Perhaps you will remember a Jan. 5 way back in 1965,'' the letter began, ''when the Monitor carried a story about Linden Hill School. It was by your old colleague, Ralph Porter, who after retirement (from the Monitor's copy desk) had joined us at Linden Hill as beloved teacher and trustee.''
I did remember. The letter continued:
''It is now the 20th year of Linden Hill. More than once I had been asked to write a history of the early years. After some thought I decided that this should take the form of a children's storybook, to be read by our alumni, now fathers, to a growing flock of youngsters.
''Interwoven with the narratives of the Linden Hill barnyard of animals would be the philosophical and educational principles on which the school was based.''
Linden Hill was (and is) no ordinary school. It serves the 8- to 13-year-old boy who is a blocked reader. (Dyslexics is the current term for youngsters who cannot learn by conventional school methods, but who are intellectually capable of not only learning the basics, but of going on through the highest levels of academia.)
The founder of Linden Hill (and the writer of the letter) is George W. Hayes, who retired a few years ago, only to open with his wife, Penny, their own home (Birch Hill) to older teens who have been blocked readers and writers.
Both Linden and Birch Hill are full-time boarding situations and both recognize that each individual is very, very different, but that there are some things in common.
Failure has, of course, been a part of the past of each of these boys; therefore, success is paramount.
And at both schools (Birch Hill is really not a school so much as a combination tutorial/skill-training program), every opportunity is given to the boys to learn to work with machinery and to meet quickly and thoroughly with success.
Also, the farm animals play a big role in helping a boy find his way through a tough learning patch - nothing like that lick on the cheek from an all-forgiving puppy!
George Hayes kindly sent me a copy of the children's storybook he's written in place of a school history, and I read through it with an eye to answering the question: What would this mean to someone who had never heard of Linden Hill School?
I think I have the correct answer: a great deal.
They are bedtime stories, no doubt about that. And you'd certainly know more about the characters (animal and human) if you'd gone to Linden Hill.
But what they really are is inspiring - they tell of success with more than 200 boys, boys who once thought themselves lifetime failures, chained forever to illiteracy.
They are failures no longer; instead, boys who not only develop a love for literacy, but deepen character, proving that they can share with others to show their gratitude. ''The School Bell Story Book'' is available from the author direct: Birch Hill, Northfield, Mass. 01360 ($4.75 plus 65 cents postage).