A Second Chance: The Power of Reading

Carson - Lewisville, North Carolina
Entered on October 27, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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A Second Chance: The Power of Reading

I believe in the power of reading to take me to distant worlds, to surprising discoveries, to beautiful thoughts and to timeless understandings. I believe in the infinite wealth I feel when I walk into the public library. A sleepless night can turn into an enlightening journey if I have a good book by my bed.

What do I do with my passion for books? I cannot thank all those who coaxed and inspired me to read, but I can pass along the lifelong love of reading. I instilled the love of books in my 3 daughters by sharing picture books, fairy tales and classics like “Little House on the Prairie” and “Harry Potter”.

When my daughters grew up, I looked for a new reading outlet, and a teacher recruited me for the Augustine Project which trains volunteer tutors to work intensively, one-on-one, with low income, academically at-risk children. Each year I am assigned a child who has fallen so far behind in basic reading skills that each school day is a struggle and every book is a reminder of failure. It is not the child’s fault that she lives in a world of frequent relocations, family disruption, illiterate adults, economic uncertainty and constant television bombardment. Without consistent adult support, the child in second grade is already frustrated and hopeless at school. Classroom teachers are overwhelmed, and private paid tutors are not an option.

I tell the child that I am on her side and that I will not give up on her. We work hard using a systematic, multi-sensory phonics program to identify and fill the gaps in her knowledge and to reassure her that she can succeed beyond her wildest dreams . After a successful lesson of short vowel sounds or compound words, my reward is her smile when she really gets it and when the confusing jumble of letters has become her powerful tool to interpret the world. Watching her face as she conquers a simple picture book, then a chapter book, makes me feel blessed and complete. I hope my student feels the same excitement! The journey to literacy can be slow and frustrating, but competency in reading gives her hope for a brighter future. I believe helping her discover the gift of reading makes our world more productive, one child at a time.

If you have never struggled with learning to read, try to imagine a hostile world of indecipherable symbols which makes you feel ignorant, abandoned and hopeless. You sit in the back row of the class, invisible and terrified of another failure. A stranger, well trained in phonics and supported by the Augustine Project, comes into your world and starts teaching you, patiently and purposefully, to master letters, sounds, syllables and words. The volunteer tutor is giving you the gift of a future in a fast-paced, sophisticated world, if you are willing to work hard and close the gaps. As the mother of one of our students told me, “You have no idea of the lives you have touched.”

I believe in passing on the joy and power of reading, changing lives and opening doors.