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Zelza went to a nice school, it was big and clean, Digits Elementary was its name and all the little numbers in town went there. Zelza's classroom had lots of windows so the sunshine always brightens the room and made things more cheery.
Zelza was not happy because she did not have any friends at school. There were ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, sevens, eights, and nines, but Zelza was the only zero and she felt all-alone.
None of the other little numbers would play with Zelza or sit with her at lunch. They all said that they could not play with her because zeros were "worthless."
Now Zelza did not know what "worthless" meant. Once she got home she asked her mother but she did not know.
Then Zelza asked her father, but he did not know either. He had no idea what "worthless" meant.
So everyday Zelza went to school and sat by herself. She went to the playground at recess and sat by herself. She went to lunch and sat by herself and wondered about what "worthless" meant.
One day Zelza finally got enough courage to ask her teacher what the word "worthless" meant. The teacher said, "Why Zelza, "worthless" means that something or someone has no value."
All the other numbers laughed and teased Zelza by saying, "That's you Zelza, you have no value."
The teacher asked the class to get quiet. Then asked Ozzie One to come to the front of the class. When he stood in front of the class, the teacher asked, " How much are you worth?" Ozzie beamed, "I'm worth a lot because I'm unique. I am always first and that makes me special." He returned to his seat smiling.
Then the teacher called Thomas Two to the front of the class. She asked him the same question. Thomas answered proudly, " I'm worth a lot because I double everything. I can make twins of anything." He returned to his seat smiling.
Next the teacher called Thelma Three and asked her the same question, she replied, " I am worth a lot because I triple everything, and I am worth more than Ozzie and Thomas." Ozzie and Thomas did not like the last part of what Thelma had to say but they both kept quiet. After Thelma, the teacher called Freddy Four. Freddy walked boldly to the front of the room and even before the teacher could ask him, he said, "I am worth a lot because I can make two pairs, plus I am worth more than Thelma Three.
Now all the numbers has a chance to tell their worth except poor Zelza. She just sat quietly in her chair and thought, "I guess I am "worthless." I am not more than any of the others. Even if there was a pair of me, I would still be "worthless." She was very sad.
Just then the teacher called Zelza to the front of the class. Then she called Thomas Two. When they stood together, the teacher asked the class how much were they worth together.
Excitedly Sid Six yelled out, "There are worth a lot, together they make twenty. That's more than all of us." "Yes," said the teacher, "Together they make twenty, and if each of you stood beside Zelza, you also would be worth even more than you are now."
Fibbie Five thought for a moment and said, "So if we are worth more with Zelza, then that means that Zelza is not "worthless" because she can make all of us worth more."
That's right said the teacher, "When we are together, we are worth even more and that means we can even do more."
After that day in class, Zelza Zero was never alone again at school, she always has another little number who wanted to play with her and sit with her at lunch. Zelza now has lots of friends because all the little numbers had learned that everyone has worth.
Excerpted from Zelza Zero by Jennifer Smith Andre Morgan Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Smith and Andre Morgan. Excerpted by permission.
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