By Kimberly Cantrell, AmeriCorps alumna (’14), Wellington Management team at the Trotter Innovation School

For students, corps members, and teachers alike, mornings can be a difficult time to hop out of bed and to get to school bright and early. But, this was not the case for 4th grader Danny* and me. Danny and I found ourselves looking forward to Thursday mornings.

Starting in the cold and dark days of early winter, Danny was starting to slump in his academics. I, too, was struggling to maintain a high spirit and re-charge my energy during those cold, dreary months. I thought perhaps we could be each other’s motivation for making it to school with a great attitude while spreading my love of reading.

Every Thursday morning, at what probably felt like the crack of dawn, Danny and I meet outside the City Year team room at the Trotter Innovation School and made our way upstairs, balancing hot chocolate, munchkins, and books, to our book club. Once we arrived, Danny and I spread our goodies on the table and share a delightful breakfast over fruitful conversations and a good book.

Danny was a student who tried hard, worked quietly and was rarely in trouble, but struggled academically. When I first started tutoring Danny, he expressed very little interest in reading. It was nearly impossible for me to convince him to read confidently in front of a small group of his peers or myself, let alone to motivate him to complete his independent reading homework.

During our first few meetings, we discussed our favorite breakfast foods and made a list of items to try in our future meetings, how Danny was feeling, and what books he might like to read. A book in the Lego Superheroes series was the first one we dove into, and it was quite the educational experience for me. Who knew there were so many super heroes with such an extensive list of powers, enemies, and vehicles? I certainly did not, and this made Danny giggle.

After a few months, Danny was excited to see me walk in with a box of books. He showed up at school early for our 7:30 a.m. meetings, and was determined to show his mom and peers that he was a confident and capable reader. At the start of each week, he started telling me about books he was reading instead of the video games he was playing, making it clear that he was falling in love with reading, not just our breakfast book club.

My proudest moment as his AmeriCorps member was the day his teacher surprise him: holding a certificate of accomplishment she announcing Danny won the Scholastic Reading Counts challenge for our classroom. This meant that Danny read the most books in our class during that month!

Watching his transformation from a student who refused to pick up a book, to a student who was recommending books to me taught me that every student can develop a love for reading. I hope this love continues to grow as he transitions into 5th grade this fall.

* Name changed to protect student privacy. 

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