When I first met my student, he was a shy second grader trying to blend in with the rest of his classmates. Reading All-Stars was just beginning and this was new for everyone, both students and volunteers.
He didn't show much emotion, other than a little fear of being asked to read on the spot to a complete stranger. But he was fearless and showed his amazing ability to read at such a young age. While I breathed a sigh of relief that he was already a great reader, I was more impressed with his joy in reading. When I told him that he was a fantastic reader, he looked right at me and smiled broadly.
That was three and a half years ago. Since then, he and I read together consistently throughout the school year and through some of the summers. His reading would continue to improve and so did his comprehension. We would talk through what the characters in a story might do and we would guess what we thought would happen next in the story. He gained confidence in his ability to do well on assessment tests and greatly improved his social skills. Those skills trickled over to the rest of his family, who were a constant presence each Saturday at Harriet Tubman Elementary.
More than those things were the lessons Adrian taught me. The joys of reading something that I read when I was his age came alive again through his eyes. The pleasures of learning how to complete a complicated math problem or figuring out where a country is on the globe. I learned again those things that we adults long forgot were true victories. Ultimately, he taught me the value of commitment and community. Washington operates on a timetable of transiency, which is both its appeal and its chagrin. Through job changes and a lot of life lived, my Saturday mornings with him were one of the things that helped me remain rooted in Columbia Heights and grounded in the District. It also led me to become connected and committed to his family and to the students at Tubman Elementary. For that, I am better for reading with him and I have the Grassroots Education Project to thank for that.