Reading Comprehension Activity

Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. This is the lesson Lucy learns when she meets someone who is as homesick as she is. Students will read and analyze the passage to answer questions on theme, details, and character progression.

Topic(s): Realistic Fiction. Skill(s): Theme, Summary, Character Traits, Compare & Contrast. Genre(s): Prose

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Lucy did not even want to visit California, much less live there, but when your parents are medical research scientists, they travel where the investigation takes them-and you go, too. 

They had found a new house in California, but before they moved, Lucy’s parents had to attend a conference in Berlin. Rather than delay Lucy’s start at her new high school, they had arranged for her to stay with her brother, Chris, in Los Angeles until they returned.

“I don’t want to leave Chicago, where all my friends are,” thought Lucy. “It’s bad enough that I have to do all this alone, but on top of everything else, I’m being treated like a baby. When Chris has to work in the afternoon or evening, I have to go with him. Sometimes I just sit with a bunch of fidgety strangers, all waiting to audition for the same insurance company commercial. How is that fair?” 

None of her complaining mattered, and off she went to California while her parents flew to their meeting in Berlin. 

“Lucy,” said Chris one evening, “I’ve got an all-day movie shoot tomorrow. I may be late, so I asked Mrs. Carpenter if you could stay next door until I get home.”

“Mrs. Carpenter works in the daytime! If she’s not home, I’m going to be alone at her house. Why can’t I just stay here?”

“No good, kid-alone is not an option. The nanny that cares for the Carpenters’ baby will be there with you.”

“Fantastic,” thought Lucy, “now he thinks I need a nanny.” But all she said was, “Fine.”

Lucy arrived at the Carpenters’ after school and was greeted by a young Asian girl not much older than she was. Her name was An Ha. She let Lucy in but excused herself right away to comfort the crying baby. 

Lucy thought the baby would never stop, but somehow An Ha managed to quiet him down. She returned to the living room where Lucy was and pulled out a box of embroidery. Lucy pretended to be studying as An Ha stitched, but the silence between them felt awkward.

As Lucy was searching for something to say, her companion spoke. “Do you like living here, Lucy?”

“No,” replied Lucy but added quickly, “I mean, I like Chris, and you’re nice and so are the Carpenters, but I just want to go home.”

“Where is home?”

“Chicago. We just moved here. My parents are traveling, and I miss my friends and my old school.”

“I miss my friends, too. My home is in Vietnam. When I arrived here, I spent quite a while learning English and looking for employment. Finally, after many interviews, the Carpenters offered me this job. Since baby Aiden reminds me of my little nephew back home, when I care for him, I don’t feel quite so homesick.”

Lucy thought about what An Ha had said. Vietnam was thousands of miles away. An Ha came from a culture very different from the one she was immersed in now. She had left her home for a place where she had no family or friends-not even a brother who cared enough never to leave her alone. Why didn’t she seem as upset as Lucy did?

Lucy realized that they had a lot in common-they were both homesick, but they showed it in different ways. Maybe if she stopped worrying about herself for a change, there might be something Lucy could do to help them both.

“An Ha, your embroidery is beautiful. Is it hard to do? Can you teach me some of the stitches?”

The other girl smiled, and the room didn’t seem so cold anymore. An Ha began riffling through the embroidery box. 

“Take a look at this,” she said at last. “This is the pattern that I learned from.”

Before long, neither girl was thinking about homesickness at all.

Comprehension Questions

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