Alicia Lays a Foundation and Learns to Read
By Jessie Palmatier | October 16, 2019
When we first met Alicia*, she was a second-grader at La Escuelita Elementary School who had trouble reading at a kindergarten grade level. Alicia built a close relationship with her Succeeding By Reading tutor Janet and told Janet that her mom had gone away. In order to maintain her Spanish skills to communicate with her mother when she returned, Alicia was enrolled in a bilingual class at school. Her father spoke Chinese at home, and it seemed as though there was no one in the family who was able to read with Alicia in English.
During that first year of tutoring, Alicia did not make much measurable progress, finishing the school year at the same reading level as when the year began. Janet could see that Alicia had potential and that she truly cared about learning, but the trauma of being separated from her mother and a lack of English language usage at home was making it difficult for her to move forward. Janet advocated that we work with Alicia again the following year, and requested to be her tutor once again.
Early in the following school year, Alicia excitedly told Janet that her mother had returned.
“From that day on,” Janet recalls, “she began to make progress. It was like a light bulb had switched on.” After Alicia got to a point where she could read some books on her own at the clinic, Janet made a deal with her that they would each individually read for 20 minutes every evening. By the end of the year, Alicia had caught up to her peers and was reading at a third-grade level!
“By the time she was ready to learn, she had the support, the tools, and the foundation to be able to fly.”
Janet points out that Alicia is a great reminder that this work is truly an investment and, sometimes, one with slow returns.
“She kind of just sat there for a year, and wasn’t able to make any progress while she struggled through a very traumatic experience,” Janet says. But, “by the time she was ready to learn, she had the support, the tools, and the foundation to be able to fly.”
Recalling other students who may not have experienced the “light switch moment” that Alicia did, Janet believes that the foundation work she laid was just as important. With the support and encouragement from a caring adult, when the child is ready, they will have the tools they need to rise above their challenges regardless of whether we are lucky enough to watch it happen.
*Name changed to maintain confidentiality
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