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Nora's Story
By The Clark Family Page 1 of 4   Next ยป
Genre: Visual Arts

Nora Clark is 18 years old. She lives in Anchorage with her parents Bob and Andrea, her sister Irene, 7, and her dog E.B, cats Miss Kittyco and Arrow. The dog Eunice, cat Franny, and gerbils Hazel and Hershey has passed on. She graduated from Chugach Optional Elementary School in June 2004, and she is now a senior at Steller High School. She will begin her college studies in the Honors College at the University of Alaska Anchorage in fall 2010.

Nora was diagnosed with cancer just prior to her third birthday. The family spent almost all of her third year in Seattle, at the Ronald McDonald House, and in and out of Children's Hospital for surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation.

Nora Clark
Over the summer of '98, between kindergarten and first grade, one of the regularly scheduled CT scans revealed two small nodules in her lungs. Two and half years out and the cancer had come back, or reasserted itself. Nora had another surgery in Seattle, returned for the last few weeks of summer, and started the first grade.

In the pages of "Nora's Story," Bob and Andrea share some of their thoughts about guiding Nora toward literacy. And Nora shares the pictures and stories she has written -- some of which helped her cope with an illness she was too young to understand.

Bob Clark is a stay-at-home dad and a writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. His short story, "Hospital Game," written when Nora was four years old, is based on his experience with her illness. It was published in 1997 in the Ontario Review.

Bob and Andrea never had a "strategy" to teach Nora to read and write. They followed Nora's lead, weaving Nora's natural interests -- drawing, for instance, and her love of spending time with friends -- together with literacy.

Nora and Andrea reading
"Because Nora's happiness is so important to us, because we want her to enjoy everything she does, we never imposed a rigid structure or method (flash cards, exercises, reward systems) for helping Nora learn to read and write. We have not let ourselves feel pressure to have her reading two years above an average." (Bob)

"Andrea and Nora have always drawn a lot together. This has always been a strength for Nora, that she enjoys drawing, and it was a natural to tie this activity to her developing skills as a reader and a writer. Our style has been simply to expose her to the pleasures and rewards of literature -- we read daily, and every night. We haven't focused on perfection." (Bob)

"Drawing has been a good tandem activity for us. Other kids may feel the need to move more than she and I do, but Nora has always been a keen observer, and good with her hands." (Andrea)

"When she was very young we made picture books using photos of her and her favorite people and things. Max's mother, Mary, made this one for us." (Bob)

Three Friends

"We've always been big on reading to her, and telling stories to her, but now she is the one reading. I find her alone in her room reading to herself, or to an orchestrated audience of live pets and stuffed animals. Although I've probably said this about all the other stages of her development, this is an especially fun time."

A page from Nora's Journal, written when she was in First Grade.

A page from Nora's Journal, written when she was in First Grade:

"9-21-98 I got an old bus. But it seems like it's new to us.

9-22-98 I have a scar. I'm proud of it. I also have a stitch.
I'm also proud of it. I got them from my tumor.

9-28-98 My mom is on a trip for two days. I will miss Andrea."

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Related Articles
Nora Story Clark's Postcard from Fish Creek Park
Nora's Stories and Art
The Hospital Game

Next page:   Nora's Story continued Pages:  1 2  3  4 

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