January 10, 2014
Friends of Reading Partners Make Third Grader's Wishes Come True
As a Reading Partners tutor, I volunteer once a week at Stephen C. Foster Elementary School to work with my full-of-life third grader, Anthony. During our weekly lessons, we read, review high frequency words, work on new literacy skills, and complete worksheets together.
Some days the task at hand can seem daunting—like the days that call for my students to learn that “meat” and “meet” sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean two entirely different things. Yet on days when Anthony reads a full page without hesitation or laughs at a story he is reading himself, I know Reading Partners is making a measurable difference in his life.
Last year, when Anthony was in second grade, he was reading at a Kindergarten level—far behind his peers and classmates. This year, Anthony has been busy making new friends and making steady progress on his reading. While he’s still reading at a level below his classmates, Anthony gets one-on-one attention twice a week with Reading Partners. In the Reading Center, he can be seen working diligently on his reading lessons and if there is ever a book in the read-aloud library on football or animals, you can be sure he will pick it!
On Friday and with winter break fast approaching, a hum can be heard throughout the school. Reading Partners’ Site Coordinator, Kaitee, who works in the Reading Center and helps coach and guide the volunteer tutors, announced that we could shorten our lesson and leave 20 minutes to do a special activity with our students. Anthony’s eyes lit up, upon hearing a “special activity” was in store and he sped through his lesson like never before.
When the time came, Kaitee presented us with three options; to create a wreath for the door, a cut-out snowflake, or a letter to Santa. Upon hearing his options, Anthony put his head in his hands as if overcome with all the appealing choices. “How am I ever going to decide?” he remarked with evident concern. After some time of contemplation, he looked at me seriously and asked if I could help him write a letter to Santa. “I would be happy to help,” I replied, and we set out to write a letter fit to send to the North Pole.
We sat together discussing how best to address Santa, how to word the letter politely, and which colors to use. Anthony was adamant that Santa’s favorite colors must be green and red, so we pulled the red and green markers from the box. He also considered how much he should ask Santa for—cautious to not ask for too much or too little. After some time of discussing the design and text for his card he told me, “Some of the kids in my class do not believe in Santa, but I do, I really, really do.”
When it came time to write his wish list, he appeared conflicted about what he should write. After great consideration, he wrote the following:
Anthony’s Wish List:
1. 5 books
2. Toy car
3. Toy plane
4. 5 toy dinosaurs
5. A new phone for my mom
When it came time to address the envelope, he became concerned again about what he should write. Anthony was adamant that the letter had to find its way into Santa’s hands. When I asked him why he responded, “My mom’s phone broke and she really needs a new one bad.”
His firm belief in Santa and the care with which he spoke of his mom and her need for a phone is but a glimpse at Anthony’s bravery and determination despite difficult circumstances.
A Holiday Miracle
Upon hearing the story of Anthony and his Christmas wish list, friends of Reading Partners decided to become “Santa” to Anthony this Christmas. They donated all the items on Anthony’s hand-written list plus some items they knew would be of help to his family.
This act of kindness is a reflection of what happens in Reading Centers every day—dedicated care, individualized attention, and belief in every child’s ability to succeed in school and life.