Friday, February 09, 2018

Reading Buddies

I've reading and being read to at Garlough Elementary for at least 15 years now as part of my corporate volunteer program.  Every year I get a different grade school student who practices their reading or needs some contact with an adult who likes to read.  Last year my student was off the hook smart.  Loved books about space and science.  We read about the planets and talked about the news every week.

This year, I have Justin.  Justin will do anything not to read.  Drop his book.  Pretend not to know words I know he knows.  Lose his page.  Say "the" as an interruption during any talking.  Look for a different book.  Look for a different place to sit.  Squirm.  Anything.  He's said repeatedly "I hate reading."  He also hates my shoes, my jacket, my shirt... By the way, if you don't believe having someone say "the" every few seconds while you're having a discussion is annoying, try it on a friend sometime.

Last week he was out.  I thought perhaps he was sick and the school had just not managed to let me know.  So I sat in the corner and read.  This week, he was out again.  But there was a student, Miranda, without a reading buddy.  So Miranda and I read her Q&A book on weather/storms and she had me try to guess the answers and we swapped reading questions and answers.  During the first few minutes I asked the teacher if Justin was out sick again.  She looked confused.  A little while later she came back with Justin in tow to say he'd been outside at recess and chosen not to come in.  Per Justin, that's what he'd done last week as well.  That's a new level off avoidance.  And I do have sympathy.  He's got a much older brother and as far as I can tell, reading just isn't a priority for anyone in his house to the extent they may actively dislike it.  Hard to get good habits in that environment.

Justin sat down, although  not in his usual spot because Miranda was sitting there.  You'd think the story would end there.  Justin would just listen while Miranda read.  But he truly appeared to be jealous.  Despite that he'd just bailed on me for the second week, he seemed someone upset that his reader was reading with another student.  Despite alternating and generally giving him what he wanted, very little reading, he tried to disrupt the overall reading experience and get my constant attention.  Miranda and I pulled him in with the Q&A so he could answer the questions as well.  And that helped, although he kept trying to peek ahead in the book.

Miranda and Justin (and Clayton from last year) complete night and day.  But when it comes down to it, I suspect the kid who has problems needs me more than the one that does not.  It feels somewhat at odds with the managerial rule of giving more attention to your highest performers.

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