In Jerry Spinelli's novel Maniac Magee, Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee meets Grayson, a Zoo worker, in part two of the novel. The two become friends, bonding over baseball and butterscotch krimpets. Earl Grayson is an older man and has a vague concern about Maniac not being in school, but he quickly learns that Maniac is a student, just not one that learns in the formal school setting. He takes what Grayson gives him for helping him at the zoo and buys discarded books at the library.
When Grayson sees Maniac's love of learning and thirst for books, he asks him to teach him to read. This happens at the end of chapter 26 in the edition printed in 1991. Maniac is surprised at the request, and Grayson shares his upbringing with alcoholic parents who left him on his own a lot. He is in special classes in school and overhears a teacher say that he would never learn to read.
Grayson catches on to the lessons fairly quickly but has occasional trouble distinguishing between m and n. The letter c is particularly troublesome for Grayson. His trouble with it is described below:
Sometimes he got m and n mixed up, but the only one that gave him trouble day in and day out was c. It reminded him of a bronc some cowboy dared him to ride in his Texas League days. He would saddle up that c, climb aboard and grip the pommel for dear life, and ol' c, more often than not, it would throw him. Whenever that happened, he'd just climb right back on and ride 'er some more. Pretty soon c saw who was boss and gave up the fight. But even at their orneriest, consonants were fun.
Grayson's relationship with vowels is much trickier. He doesn't like them, and they seem to be everywhere in words. Grayson thinks vowels can't trusted. Through all this difficulty, Maniac is there to encourage Grayson, often using baseball analogies to motivate him to keep trying. By the end of chapter 27, Grayson is reading short sentences.