By Molly McComb, 2022-2023 Literacy First Tutor
Literacy First has reached the mid-point of the academic year that we often refer to as MOY (Middle of Year). It is the time of year where tutors are feeling the most confident. Refreshed from winter break and energized by the celebration of over 250 Literacy First graduates, our tutors are continuing to work daily with 8-10 students, helping them realize their potential. Every day, students like Jesse are reminded by their Literacy First tutor that they already possess all the tools they need to succeed, and that, with a little patience, love and practice, they can achieve their literary goals and so much more!
At this point during my time in Literacy First, I have worked with close to 30 students at two different elementary schools. While most students we work with often express their love for reading, this is not always the case for all of our students. Some don’t like reading because they find it difficult. The more they struggle, the harder it is for them to enjoy what they are doing. They often feel like failures when they obviously are not. As a tutor, when working with these students, we cheer them on more than others. We give them support and help them see they aren’t bad at reading; they just need some practice. I have seen students who hated reading more than getting their teeth pulled; this is not an exaggeration, one of my students actually told me this! However, many of these students begin to fall in love with reading as soon as they understand the process and mechanics of what they need to do to succeed in reading.
Jesse, one of my favorite second graders, started the year off a bit nervous and struggled with her confidence during our lessons together. Often, if she didn’t hit her reading goal on her first read-through, she would become incredibly upset and give up on trying. One example comes to mind: in late November, we started her lesson as usual. Jesse had consistently been reaching over 100 words with her guided read-throughs, but this time only made it to 95. When I told her she was close but hadn’t exactly reached her goal, she burst into tears and began wailing that she was a failure and would never be able to read. By this point, the lesson was over, but I kept her with me for a bit longer so she could calm down. I told her she wasn’t a failure at all; in fact, she was a very strong reader, and her fluency had made great progress because of her time spent practicing. I told her she was working hard and that she was not only hitting the reading goal but surpassing it, every time. I told her that she could be proud of herself because she was doing something that was difficult. She was doing a great job! After she had stopped crying, we walked back to her classroom.
Even though I had to remind Jesse of this conversation a few more times when she would get frustrated with herself, eventually, it clicked, and her whole demeanor began to shift. Jesse went from hating every minute of our lessons to never wanting to leave. She started making incredible gains and reading books by herself almost every day. She began to enjoy what she was reading. She began to understand that mistakes were simply part of the process. And with a few more lessons, she was able to graduate from the program. I still see her in the halls and in the library, often with a new book in hand. I think we forget how hard it is to learn to read. We take it for granted. What a joy it was to work with this child who now loves to read. All it took was some practice and a little boost of confidence. She had all the tools, we just helped her find them in herself.