What inspired you to volunteer with Read Ahead?
I’m the oldest of five kids and I was always tasked with helping my siblings with their homework along the way. I also participated in a reading program when I was in 5th grade which had a big impact on me, so I understand the importance. I was in an ESL class and I had this fantastic teacher who created and personally funded this program where you could track your progression by reading the books which were color-coded by reading level. She was a tremendous teacher who went out of her way to help her students. She was actually a major factor in me going on to pursue a legal career.
How has your relationship grown with your student this year?
My student Dion came in with so much energy, it was clear that I was going to have to really talk to him before getting him to want to sit down and read. Roxanne, the Program Coordinator at the school I volunteer at, has been exceptionally helpful in finding ways to help me engage with him. One of the most important things I did in the early stages was to earn his trust. Helping him see me as a friend, as someone who is there for him outside of his parents or teachers, has been a big key to our success. Now that we know each other he can’t wait for our sessions.
Do you have any particular strategies that have been successful?
Rather than me dictating what we’re going to do, I let him choose depending on his interests. For instance, instead of forcing him to read as soon as he sits down, I’ll let him draw first. He loves to draw dinosaurs and color. I’ll let him know beforehand that he can color but that after a certain amount of time we were going to read together.
Did you have anyone in your life who inspired you to read?
Definitely. I was blessed to have had many great teachers. It started in 3rd grade when I first moved here and didn’t speak any English. I moved into my new school later in the year and was put directly into ESL classes. My teacher was really helpful in getting me up to speed. I wound up going to summer school that year and met some great people there as well.
I would have to say though, my 5th grade teacher had the biggest effect on my life. The reading program that she started helped bring me up to speed. She was tough but fair, and would not accept anything less than our best effort. It made me want to learn and to not disappoint her. I have had a lot of help along the way.