Spending the Summer with Read for Success

Aug 13, 2018

This summer, AmeriCorps VISTA Amber Watson worked with students at our Read for Success program that was integrated into LifeSkills for Youth at South City Church. Read for Success is a program created by Reading is Fundamental that AR Kids Read customized and implemented in Central Arkansas. The programs ended August 3, so we asked Amber to share her experiences from this summer. Here is her story about the transformation she observed in two students, and what she learned from them.

When children are given undivided attention and time, it enables them to transform and flourish. During my summer, I have enjoyed being able to witness these transformations through meaningful moments with the students. There are far too many memories and stories to tell them all, but I wanted to share stories about two students that made huge improvements and have flourished while being a part of the Read for Success program.

In the Read for Success program, we read a book out loud at the beginning of class, and then the students do a science, technology, engineering, arts or mathematics (STEAM) activity that is related to the book. Our activities ranged from being engineers and making rockets out of cups, balloons, and tape to creating buildings out of STEM bins. The activities allow children to be captivated and interested in the world of reading.

My first huge transformation was with a young boy who will be going into the fourth grade this upcoming school year. When we first met, he was very troubled as in not paying attention, always preoccupied with something, and playing during class time. During small group reading when I would take two or three students and let them read to me and play comprehension games, he would shut down. He was not used to reading out loud and was very irritable when reading to me and the other kids.

I saw the first signs of the change in him after the first week of Read for Success because he was excited about the upcoming week’s new book and what type of activity we would be doing. As I worked with him more, I created fun challenges to inspire him to read louder with confidence and have fun while doing so. By the end of the program, I was so proud of the way that he read aloud with confidence, acted excited when it was time to read, and showed signs of improved reading comprehension.

My second huge transformation came from a girl that is in the second grade going to third grade for the upcoming school year. She is always so polite, sweet, but very timid when it came to reading out loud. She was so shy that during small reading groups she would read so low that you could only hear her if she was right by you. If she came to a difficult word in the book she found difficult she would just look at me instead of trying to sound it our for herself. After multiple small group reading sessions, she is above her third-grade reading level. She is excited to read and reads loudly with confidence.

One of her transformational moments will stay with me forever. We were starting reading time before we started class and she asked could she read to me. She chose a book that was at the fourth-grade reading level and impressively read it with ease. She made me so proud when she read “suspicious” and we couldn’t help but have a small celebration in honor of her doing so well.

These students have transformed and flourished into better readers and students with time and attention. There is no stopping either of these students from constantly growing and becoming whatever they want to be. This summer, I learned that a student is impressionable and by giving them positive motivation and catering to their wants and needs creates an unbreakable bond. Thank you AR Kids Read for this amazing internship experience!