I am part of a local program called Reading is Fun. The purpose is to do one-on-one work with students who may not have people at home to work with them on reading, and to instill a love of reading in them. I’ve been associated with this program for seven years, including the pandemic year, when we had to co-read via Zoom. That wasn’t anywhere nearly as effective as it is doing the same task in person.
My first student is kind of an anomaly in the program: He reads too well. He’s in the second grade but reads at a sixth- or seventh-grade level. Because he’s bored, he sometimes will act out and disrupt the class, so his teacher, with whom I’ve worked for three years, suggested I meet with him. She matched him with me because he loves sports like I do. She can’t discuss sports with him the way I can, so that’s the way I always break the ice with him each week. He’s challenged me to a basketball game in the spring. I told him I’ll do it. The teacher says she’s going to sell tickets as a fundraiser for the school. I have two artificial knees–no guarantees on that game!
This student isn’t all that happy at home because he’s living with his aunt. His parents are absent–let’s say, not of their own choosing, but because of legal difficulties. He misses his parents, but his aunt is there for him and his eleven-year-old brother. He’s interesting and articulate for a nine-year old. He likes reading about spies and kids his age. This week’s book we started was “School for Spies.” He said he will share it with his brother.
My second student is in the third grade. This is my second year working with him. His reading is not great, but he’s working on it. He’s improved drastically since last year. He talks about his family and his grandmother (“she’s 61 but she looks a lot older than you“). His dad drives an eighteen-wheeler truck. This week, his dad took him on a short run in his truck, and he was quite excited about that. He’s still reading beginning-reader books. His favorites are “Elephant and Piggy” by Mo Willems and Tedd Arnold books about Fly Guy.
His biggest issue is that he likes to change the story as he’s reading, ignoring the written words and making something up as he goes along. I have brought in two illustrated books without words, and he’s written stories to go along with them (I wrote down his words and then transcribed the stories). We may have a future RRBC member here!
Each week when I visit this school, I come out hopeful, knowing these two boys are part of our future. They may not be wealthy or have the most stable home lives, but they have spunk and energy, and they infuse me with some of the same to spark my own week.
Who’s getting more out of this program? Them or me? And, indeed, reading is fun!