A lot of what I do every day is literacy development. It involves serving either a group of kids, or individual kids ranging from grades K-4. We focus on reading skills – things like comprehension, fluency, pronunciation, etc. This is different for every kid, as each kid is on a different level. However, despite what I am assisting them with, I always take time to notice and praise hard work and determination. Whether I am focusing on an upper level chapter book with a fourth grader, or sounding out a simple three letter word with a kindergartner, I always notice and appreciate how hard they try. And for this, I praise them.
One day a few days prior to the winter holiday break I was asked by a teacher to focus on reading with Sarah, a first grader. Sarah is always cheerful, hard working, and excited to have the help of a teacher, friend or adult. She jumped at the opportunity to read with me and eagerly rushed over to the bookshelf to pick out a book. She chose a Dr. Seuss book, and truthfully I don’t even remember which one it was since this all happened a couple of months ago. Regardless, we sat down together and started reading.
Usually when I read with an individual student, especially those in lower grades, it does not last much longer than about 10 to 15 minutes before I move on to the next student. They tend to get distracted and fidgety, quickly losing interest.
Sarah, on the other hand, was determined to finish this book. I could tell that it was a real challenge for her – she wasn’t breezing through the pages as some kids do when they try to be sly and choose a book they already have memorized. No, Sarah worked tirelessly to sound out and correctly pronounce each and every one of those obscure Dr. Seuss words, and we all know how long Dr. Seuss books can be.
Before I knew it, I glanced at the clock and realized that Sarah had been reading for 45 minutes straight without a single complaint. Finally finishing the last page, we both cheered at what a fantastic job she had done. I was truly and honestly amazed at her focus and determination, and proud of her for sticking it out all the way until the end. We went together to tell her teacher what an awesome job she had done, and I left the classroom thrilled that she was so excited and proud of herself.
The holidays came and went, with school being out for a whole two weeks. By the time we came back after the new year, Sarah’s accomplishment was the last thing on my mind. However, it clearly wasn’t the last thing on hers. The second I saw her that first day back at school, the very first thing she said to me was, “Ms. Isla! Remember when I read that whole book to you a few days ago?” She was so excited, just beaming from ear to ear with pride, and I felt so happy for her that I was able to give her that confidence. To be proud enough to remember over the whole break, and want to mention it to me the first time she sees me – I was so happy to be able to make that impression on her. It is moments like this when I can truly see the impact I am making, and it never fails to be rewarding.