Last year I was invited to become a volunteer reading tutor for a boy from the Central African Republic. Francis is in first grade and when we first met, he knew about half of the alphabet. That was it. He couldn’t turn letters into words. When we tried to play reading games on a borrowed iPad, he would cheat and tap on the screen of the tablet so the curriculum’s pre-recorded voice would read everything to him. Some weeks I thought he actually got worse, and he felt it, too, because he got cranky and sullen.
About two months ago we had a breakthrough. Instead of giving him the iPad to go through the reading curriculum, I asked if he wanted me to read to him. I pulled out a copy of Amelia Bedelia and we dove into a world of absolutely ridiculous antics.
After that, it was a whole new enchilada. It was like everything finally clicked in his head. Suddenly he wanted to read all on his own, and he didn’t want to play as many word and sound games. He headed straight to the book at the end of the level. It was mind-blowing to see his eagerness.
A month ago I brought along one of the best writers in the history of awesomeness: Dr. Seuss. Francis practically snatched One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish from my hands and proceeded to read such difficult sentences as “Look what we found in the park in the dark.” And he did it with one hand in my face, telling me to be quiet because, and I quote, “I got this, lady.”
Through reading, Francis has become empowered and excited about learning. Sure, there are still times when he gets tired and I have to help him along, or when we run into tricky words and he gets frustrated. It can take him five minutes to read a page or even ten if he gets distracted. But at the end of each day, he gives me a hug and reminds me, “Don’t forget the book next time.”
What books and stories shaped your childhood?
Written by Beyond the Trope’s very own bazooka-wielding damsel, who in real life is an absolute terrible shot with firearms. She grew up in worlds created by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkein, Jane Austen, and Garth Nix.