This semester, I volunteered to read to children at St. Andrew’s. On all three occasions, I chose to read to the children in grades 3-5. When I first got to St. Andrew’s I was immediately drawn to the diverse personalities of the children and their hunger for attention. For our hour in the reading room, we would always begin by reading aloud together and then we would break up and do individual reading. In the reading room is where I met Amiyah and Jalen.
Amiyah clung to me immediately. It was clear that she loved the novelty of having a visitor and wanted to spend her time in the reading room with me. She admitted that she wasn’t a good reader and insisted that I do the majority of it. Though she had a hard time pronouncing words, Amiyah paid close attention and answered correctly every time I tested her to make sure she was following along. Amiyah was reading at a 2nd grade level as a 4th grader. Her strength, she repeatedly reminded me, is math and not reading. Despite falling slightly behind on reading, Amiyah maintains a love for stories and being read to. On several occasions, I would encourage her to read to me. Though it would only be a page or two, she started to get comfortable and eventually would ask me if she could have a turn. The feeling of having such a positive impact on her is something I can’t explain. I was overjoyed every time she asked me if she could read. This example truly shows that reading is more to children than just words and stories on a page. It is about the experience associated with the reading that makes it special, whether with a parent, a favorite teacher, or siblings. These experiences lay the foundation and the future path that children will take with reading on their own, which could be positive or negative. I hope that Amiyah will continue to enjoy reading without me being there every week and will improve her skills as a result.
Jalen is one of the brightest little boys that I have ever met. He is also in Amiyah’s class and is hands down the top student. My experience with Jalen was somewhat different from my experience with Amiyah. Jalen is aware that he is bright and becomes bored very easily with dull stories. He likes to read on his own and was always the first to answer any tricky questions about what’s going on in the story and was very good at predicting what would happen next. His ability to decipher the meaning of vocabulary he didn’t know from context was also above average. When reading with Jalen, he was very comfortable with taking control and letting me know when he was tired of reading and when he was ready to read again. He told me he enjoyed being read to because he was able to “think about what’s going on instead of having to pay attention to the words.” His description of this experience seems to be passive, yet enjoyable. When relating this to my own experiences of being read to, this seems to be an accurate statement. I remember my mother reading to me before bed and when I was sick to help me relax. Being read to is something that dissipates as we grow out of childhood. It’s something that I placed a high value on as a child.
My experience at St. Andrew’s has been both rewarding and disappointing. Though reading with Amiyah and Jalen reminded me of my own childhood and discovery of books, it was disappointing to see that some of the children would rather watch a movie or play a video game. It seems that technology has taken over the joy of books that I knew as a kid. Although I share a lot of similar experiences with reading as a child that I observed with Amiyah and Jalen, it seems that old-fashioned books are becoming less and less of a pleasurable medium for entertainment for children nowadays.