Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Made My Day

Big brown eyes.  Shy smiles.  Exaggerated waves.  Big smiles.  Honest yawns.  Loose or missing front teeth.  School uniforms.  First graders.  Learning to read.  Thursdays are fun.  Roman is my shy one and Haley, well, she may be the President one day. If not, her kids will beg her to read them books at night because she can make a primer riveting.  

After I drop off my kids at school on Thursday mornings, I head to the northside to Manual Jara Elementary School, check in with Miss Espinosa in the office, and head down the first grade hall to Mrs. Guidry’s class.  Mrs. Guidry can be in the middle of administering a test and she is ALWAYS happy to see me.  I am never an interruption to her.  Before she can remember my name, Roman is scrambling out of his seat grabbing his library book to come out in the hall with me.  To read.  Simple?  Yes.  Life changing? Certainly.  

Tarrant NET through the Read2Win initiative and the FWISD are working together to eradicate illiteracy in our school system.  Churches in Fort Worth are partnering with elementary schools in their neighborhoods and providing Reading Coaches to work with first graders all across the city.  Our prayer is that as this partnership turns into a vibrant relationship between these two long standing entities of our communities, lives and families will be changed.  Helping first graders get over the hump in reading is just a starting place. 

Roman is quiet, kind and awfully handsome.  He has the sweetest way of saying “um-hmm” that doesn’t make me wish he was saying “Yes, ma’am.”  I ask him “yes” questions all the time just to hear him do it.  He knows almost all of his sight words and I know the ones he has trouble with like “where” and “were”, “bought” and “thought”, and “enough” and “though”.   He’s patient, never seems bored and LOVES when it is his turn to read his library book to me.  The last time I was there, they were in the middle of standardized testing and I felt led to give him a little pep talk before he went back in, so I knelt down and put my hands on his arms and looked him in the eye.  He didn’t flinch.  And he listened intently.  When I finished, he blushed, looked down and smiled.  I had earned that privilege.  Made my day. 

Haley is bubbly, sweet and off the charts cute.  By the time, I bring my first student back to the door, she has her library book in her hand skipping my way.  Her voice is indescribable.  What adds to the precious factor is that her front teeth are busy making a new home and the “ch” sound always comes out as “sh”.  She zooms through her sight words-- preferring to do everything fast-- and she’s gone on to three more words before I can tell her she missed one and needs to go back.  She just smiles wide and tries and speeds off again. She has kindly made it clear that she doesn’t want my finger following along under the words and that she wants to be the card and page flipper.  I have a hard time making myself go through the phonogram cards because I am so anxious to hear her read.  She reads with such expression, making dry simple sentences something you want to hear again as long as she’s the one reading.  She flies reading her books which makes for interesting story changes as she makes up her own words instead of sounding out unfamiliar ones.  This little gal is delightful. One day I worked with her just up until the lunch hour and she asked me to walk with her to her class.  She grabbed my hand and led me there.  Once in the lunchroom, she started pulling me away from her class and towards the back where an elderly man and woman were sitting.  Then she announced, “These are my grandparents!”  Made my day.   

A few times, when my regulars have been absent, I’ve worked with another little boy.  He’s doesn’t always seem happy to see me.  Right off the bat, he wants to know how long he will be with me, how many flash cards we are going to do and if he will have to read to me.  And five minutes in, he says he’s bored.  So I talk to him.  After a few minutes, I find out a few things about this little guy that help me understand.  He seems embarrassed telling me how he plays video games with his cousins that maybe he shouldn’t be playing.  He doesn’t know that I am not a big fan of those but deep down he knows something isn’t right.  Can a first grade level book compete with HD video games?  I pull a Dr. Seuss book off the library shelf and just like another little boy I know, he immediately turns to the back of the book to see how many pages there are and he rolls his eyes.  “72 pages?!? I’ve got to read the whole thing?!”  “No. Just 10 pages today.  You’ll love it.  Just try.”  The first few pages fueled his confidence and the interlude of the dog with all the crazy hats every 10 or so pages pulled him in.  He read the whole book, with a GRIN on his face, jumped up from the table and ran to tell Mrs. Guidry.  Made my day.  Stinker.  

I see huge potential in this whole program. We have already seen MANY kids move up to their grade level reading level and beyond.  I have been nothing but impressed with the people working within our FWISD.  I know they aren’t perfect but the ones I have met have our children’s best interest in mind.  They seem to genuinely love the kids in our city.  And that will go a long way.    

When someone asks me why I became a Reading Coach, I could tell them several reasons but the one I think that drives me most is that I’d hate for a child to miss out on one of the most special parts of childhood-- exploring history, places, people, amazing stories through reading .... and ultimately, the life changing words of the Bible.  If you can spare an hour and a half {drive time plus 25 minutes with 2 kids}, you should do it.  Really.  You should.  It will make your day. 

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