I've been volunteering with the Grassroots Education Project for almost four years and I'm delighted to see the program get stronger every school year. I had never done any kind of work with children before, and when I first heard about the program I worried that I wouldn't be any good at it or that I wouldn't like it. Looking back though, the kids I worked with progressed so impressively in reading and in life, and I really treasure having had a hand in that.
The first student I read with came to the program speaking very little English, and at first it was difficult for us to get through basic picture books together. By the end of the year though, some combination of her own hard work, the dedication of the teachers at Tubman Elementary School, and the time in Reading All-Stars moved her from struggling to make sense of individual words to being able to truly engage with the story in a book in English.
After my first Reading All-Stars student graduated out of the program, I read with a boy who started off with a sharply negative attitude toward reading. He told me very directly, “Reading is stupid!” However, over the school year, we found lots of books that he liked, and for both of us reading them together was fun. In the meantime, I also started helping out in the school's library, and now I get to watch the program work for kids of all levels as their reading gets better from week to week and year to year.