by Kelsey Bagwill, AmeriCorps member serving on the Staples, Inc. team with Curley K-8 school
Do you remember when you were in middle school? Probably. Do you remember the feeling you experienced when the teacher asked you to read aloud? Or when there were assigned readings? For some, those memories are oh-too-vivid. They’re vivid because they were horrible.
I, on the other hand, was always that kid who had to be told to put her book away during math class. I stayed up way too late finishing “just one more chapter” and I preferred most books to most people. I don't even remember learning to read—it just happened. So, it pains me to see strain in the eyes of students like Irina*, who wants to understand without having to try so hard in class. My heart breaks for students like Samuel*, who deflects by any means possible so no one can tell how much he is struggling. I feel a pull towards students like Ethan*, who claims he hates reading yet devours graphic novels. Books are magical! Books are liberating! If only I could help them to see it.
The most useful training I have received so far through City Year has been on how to bridge that gap. How do I get a true grasp of a student’s reading level when they’ve been covering their struggle for years? How do I suggest a book that could become a student’s gateway into a love of literature? One Friday afternoon I attended a training session that addressed these specific questions.
I was coached on what read-aloud cues to listen for that could signal a lack of decoding ability versus a lack of comprehension. Better yet, I learned how to initiate a conversation with a student in such a way that by the end, not only would the student feel comfortable reading aloud to me, but they would also walk away with a book in hand that they were almost guaranteed to enjoy. Maybe for the first time in their life! Using this City Year training with my students, I can play a role in opening up the magic and liberation of reading.
*Names changed to protect student privacy