It’s a typical Tuesday afternoon in a Kindergarten classroom, and the teacher announces that it’s time for reading. Despite the teacher’s best efforts and inviting nature, a girl defiantly turns her back and refuses to participate. The topic of today’s reading doesn’t interest her, and her attempts to read drain her. When she looks inside a book, she sees confusing symbols on a page—not stories. She starts to disconnect, feeling as though she’s on the outside looking in. While her classmates seem to follow along with ease, she wonders how she’ll make it through the next hour. On this Tuesday afternoon, she decides reading isn’t for her.
How Doors Begin to Close
This is Ariela’s story, and it illustrates the incredible impact a child’s mindset can have on their ability to learn, grow, and participate in the classroom community. And Ariela isn’t alone in feeling this way. In fact, at some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced the “I can’t, I won’t” mentality. What happens in that moment—when we shift from a growth mindset to a fixed mindset—is that doors begin to close. As adults, we have years of experience to tell us that, if we just persevere through these challenges, we will most likely find success—even if it takes longer than planned. But for a five-year-old like Ariela, this understanding of her reading identity can be a pivotal moment in her learning journey.
Finding Joy, Confidence, and Relevance in Reading
This is where the incredible volunteers of Literacy Connect’s Reading Seed program come into play. Title I schools that participate in the Reading Seed program refer Kindergarten–2nd grade students, just like Ariela, who are developing their identities and skills as readers. Reading Seed matches these children with volunteer Reading Seed Coaches, whose main goal is to help their students develop healthy attitudes and identities around reading.
These patient, warm, and positive coaches recognize that each child is special. By exploring books and topics that the students choose, coaches help their kids connect to reading, discover its purpose and value, and see that reading IS for them. Arizona is so fortunate to have highly skilled teachers instructing our kids, and Reading Seed Coaches support their expertise by fostering the confidence and resilience which, research shows, is just as important as explicit instruction. It makes sense, right? Take a child like Ariela—if she decides that reading is not for her, that is a huge barrier to her learning. But if you take that same child and encourage her by showing her that her thoughts and experiences are valued, then she may start to realize that she does have something to contribute to her classroom community. With this newfound confidence and sense of purpose, she will be more willing to engage and take risks—not only in reading, but in all classroom activities. This is a gift, not just to her, but to her hardworking teachers as well.
Building Relationships through Reading
And that’s exactly what happened with Ariela. She was matched with Eileen, an especially warm and enthusiastic volunteer Reading Seed Coach, and the two of them developed a strong learning relationship built on a foundation of trust and joy. Eileen’s positive attitude toward Ariela’s abilities encouraged her to come into her own and find her success through reading. And for Eileen, spending time reading with Ariela was an absolute joy—she loved finding out Ariela’s interests, and together they had a great time exploring books about them. Eileen was so pleased to play a part in Ariela’s growth—not only was she coming into her own as a reader, she was also finding confidence in her interests and identity through the books they read together.
A Few Hours a Week Can Impact a Lifetime
At the end of the year, Ariela’s teacher shared with the Reading Seed program that, within a month or so of working with Eileen, Ariela’s attitude and willingness to complete tasks significantly improved. She no longer turned her back or closed herself off. Instead, Ariela blossomed. She became super engaged in the classroom. Like her coach, she even wanted to share her love of learning, finding ways to be helpful to her classmates and her teacher. Ariela’s work with Eileen helped change her whole attitude toward school. In fact, her teacher now believes she is college-bound.
How You Can Help by Reading with Us!
There are more kids than ever, like Ariela, who could benefit from working with Reading Seed Coaches like Eileen. Now that schools have resumed in-person learning, Reading Seed is rebuilding its volunteer pool to give more students the gift of a positive reading relationship with a trusted, supportive adult. If you are excited at the thought of sharing the gift of your time, attention, and love of reading with children in your community, then we need you!
Our most successful volunteers are flexible, good communicators, positive, and open to trying new things. If this sounds like you, please join us for an online Info Session to learn more about opportunities this school year as well as next school year. Go to literacyconnects.org and sign up today!