My Year as a Reading Tutor

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In the last week of April there was a celebration of the students and volunteers participating in Midlands Reading Consortium at Harbison West Elementary school. During the school year we tutored a child once a week, helping him or her read and comprehend. While it is a joy to volunteer and it gives you a certain peace and contentment to know that you are doing something useful not for money but out of the goodness of your heart, I couldn’t help but feel thrilled and happy when we were given our choice of free MRC goodies like a tote bag, a cup, bookmarks, water bottles etc. as a reward. 🙂

I used to spend time with my second grader every Monday morning at 9:00 am. Now that the volunteering year is over, I miss spending time with him during that hour. The year started a little rough, it was hard to hold his attention, he would look at other kids passing by, yawn a lot, ask to go drink water or use the restroom and found it difficult to focus. I really wanted to do things he was passionate about so that I could hold his attention and he would feel awake and excited about what he was doing. I discovered that he loved to play memory card games (one with matching despicable me movie characters was his favorite), connect four and tick tack toe and he, like every child I know, loved to win. I started the session playing with him and letting him win more often than not, and then we moved on to reading. He is a good reader and I always let him select the books he wanted to read. Some books he liked so much that he would read them every chance he got till I felt like I knew them by heart and could not hear them one more time and I needed to add new books to his reading log. By the end of the year I was so proud of him as he was reading loud and clear and answering my comprehension questions too.

In the beginning, I felt like I was not connecting with him as he wasn’t a hugger, and not too expressive. However, once, I missed a Monday as I was not well and then when I saw him next Monday, I told him I was sorry I could not make it and he told me, “I was waiting for you last Monday” and my heart soared with happiness. I was reminded of something that we forget ever so often; just because someone doesn’t express, doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings.

Another incident which really touched my heart happened around Martin Luther King’s day. He told me he wanted to show me something and then took me towards a display board outside his classroom which had pictures of notable African Americans. He pointed out pictures of Michael Jordan, Dr. King, and Barack Obama to me. He told me that he wanted to grow up and be somebody famous. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that he liked and trusted me enough to share this information with me. I also have so much respect for the teachers who work hard everyday and inspire students by doing these projects on positive role models.

Towards the end, he had opened up a lot and would tell me stories which were very imaginative. He told me that his dad is disabled and stays home and is looked after by their pet monkey who is trained to get dad, juice and food from the kitchen! I generally believe things kids say but this one seemed too far-fetched to me. Still, I came home and repeated it to my husband and asked if it could be true and my husband shook his head and smiled. We were reading a story for St. Patrick’s Day, the Monday after and he told me that he had gone to see the parade downtown on Saturday and he saw a leprechaun. The leprechaun cleaned his shoe and gave him a gold coin which his mom sold for a hundred dollars and got him a new dirt bike from Walmart! I did find his stories endearing and I do hope he gets a new bike.

I am not tutoring during summer but I look forward to teaching another child next school year and I hope I run into my old student too and I hope he has a great summer. I am so grateful  to MRC for giving me this opportunity and giving each child a bag of new books to take home.

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