Solving Ruth's mystery: How an attentive teacher helped a 6th grader learn to read

Lisa Tisher says her job is about solving mysteries. She's a teacher who figures out a kids' ability, taps into it, and teaches them how to read. It's never an option not to teach them.

On a Saturday morning at the BookBar on Tennyson Street, kids gathered for storytime with Ruth Austin.

The 23-year-old had braided her hair for the camera in hopes her celebrity crush might see.

"My braid is for Blake Shelton," Ruth said, while covering her face with her hands in mock embarrassment.

This particular Saturday was a little different because of the camera, but also because her 6th grade teacher, Lisa Tisher, surprised her.

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"Hey girlie," Tisher said.

"Teacher!" Austin exclaimed.

"I brought you some flowers; I heard you were an important lady," Tisher said.

Ruth begins storytime with the book "We're All Wonders."

"All they see is how different I look," she reads.

Lisa Tisher watches on, remembering little Ruthie from more than a decade ago.

"I just remember as a 6th grader, you hardly heard her voice, it'd be this little tiny meek voice, Tisher said.

In 6th grade, Ruth came to Lisa not knowing how to read.

She has Down syndrome, and until then teachers had only taught her words deemed important like "exit" and "poison."

"She’s such a smart young woman, and people don’t expect that," said Ruth's mom, Karmen. "I’m sure a lot of people don’t expect that."

Lisa Tisher saw the potential, and used Ruth's love for celebrities to help.

“She wanted to read about actors and actresses, and she wanted to go read all the celebrity magazines," Tisher said. "Sure if that’s what you want to do, OK I’ll teach you how to read those things."

Now, she reads those things all the time.

"Blake Shelton!" Austin yelled, while laying her head adoringly on People's 2017 edition of the Sexiest Man Alive.

She goes on to read (for the camera, of course) all the gossip about Blake and his girlfriend, Gwen Stefani.

"He likes me better than Gwen Stefani," Austin said.

Ruth's mom isn't at all bothered by her literary choices.

"I mean not she’s not reading the classics, she’s not reading Huckleberry Finn, she’s not reading War and Peace, but she’s reading what she enjoys and that’s how you keep that interest up," Karmen said.

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And she's also not keeping this talent to herself.

Saturdays at the BookBar bring kids to storytime who have had trouble reading themselves.

Tisher hopes "that they’ll look at her and say I can do that too."