What is Will trying to teach Meg in Shades of Gray?

Will is trying to teach Meg how to read and write before school starts. The war destroyed her old school, and her mom doesn't have the time to teach her the way Will’s mom taught her own daughters. Will feels bad for Meg and wants to help her start school with kids her own age. He starts teaching her to read, and when Meg asks him if he can teach her to write too, he agrees.

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Will helps Meg learn to read and write. Meg's old school was destroyed in the war, and even though Meg really wants to learn how to read, her mother does not have the time to teach her. Will is confused by this situation at first and talks to Aunt Ella about it:

I thought you taught her! Mama taught Betsy and Eleanor to read and write, and to figure, too.

Aunt Ella’s response teaches Will a valuable lesson about how one’s social class often determines one’s access to education:

“Your mama had time to teach her daughters those things. She didn’t have to spend every waking minute cooking and washing and mending and cleaning and gardening. And your mama had books.” Aunt Ella’s voice was hard.

Will feels bad that Aunt Ella has so much work to do and that his presence in the house has given her even more responsibilities. He then notices Meg watching him while he reads, looking sadder and stiller than he has ever seen her. He thinks to himself that he might be able to teach Meg to read before he leaves.

Later, Uncle Jed and Will learn that there will be a new school open in the coming Fall. Meg is worried that she will be in class with kids who are much younger than her because she cannot read, so Will tells her that he can teach her to read by the time school starts. One day when he is helping her learn to read, she asks if he will teach her to write too. He agrees, even though he is a bit concerned about how much time it will take.

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