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April 4, 2016

How books can provide inspiration to young students

Back to National Volunteer Week blog

Margo Miyashiro, volunteer reading partner in Sacramento, CA

It was time for Student Body Elections at Caroline Wenzel Elementary School and there was lots of excitement in the air. Josiah, one of my fourth grade students who happened to be running for Student Body President, came in for tutoring one day and found a book he just had to chose for tutor read aloud. It was Grace for President, one of our core read aloud titles about a young girl who decides she wants to be president after learning there have been no female presidents in the U.S.

Josiah’s tutor, not knowing that he was running for Student Body President, questioned him on his choice of book as she usually does.

“I chose this because I’m running for School President,” said Josiah with a nervous grin.

“You are?!” exclaimed his tutor. “Well, good choice!”

Over the next two weeks, Josiah’s tutor was more enthusiastic than I’d ever seen her during tutor read aloud. Josiah was very excited as well! It was awesome to see them pour over the pages and analyze the book characters’ campaign strategies, always drawing similarities and discussing the differences between them and Josiah’s own campaign.

Even after they had finished the book and were on to another title, Josiah and his tutor continued to discuss the themes from Grace for President (such as honesty and hard work) as election day came closer and closer. Josiah shared his fear of not being elected with his tutor who assured him that win or lose, he had learned a lot about himself and grown as a person just by putting himself out there and taking a chance.

Election day came and Josiah lost the presidency to a sixth grader. During tutoring that day, Josiah was visibly disappointed. When his tutor asked for the results of the election, Josiah smiled and told her he had lost.

“I’m sorry,” said the tutor.

“It’s OK,” sighed Josiah. “I’ll try again next year.”

I loved seeing this story unfold in my reading center this year. Josiah experienced a real life connection to a story and was able to identify with the character of Grace despite the fact that she is a girl. He drew inspiration from the book for his own campaign and bonded with his tutor as they shared a positive experience with a book.

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