Making Space for Young Readers and Helping Them Find Their Voices

I haven’t felt the Monday blues in months. We’ve met nearly every Monday since mid-January with a rotating cast of young readers. Some have come and gone as the topic shifted, but three have come reliably week in and week out. Yesterday was the final Monday morning workshop.

These are our Reading Ambassadors. I went to our new Library Media Specialist this fall and pitched an idea. With her partnership it grew into this! The idea was to connect readers from across our K-5 building by inviting a few, giving them some tools, and standing back to watch what they’d do.

One of those Ambassadors has been to all four workshop series. She has been diligent and engaged, but hesitant. Not quite trusting herself. Across the first two months I may only have heard her voice a few times. So I was determined in the final three weeks to sit nearby and give her as much wait time as she needed to make a crack in her shell.

I can see daylight.

We started a group Twitter account (@RdgAmbassadors) and studied @thelivbits to see how creating a digital presence can connect us to amazing people and ideas. Some of the others were eager to experiment with selfie videos or other projects, but  as their ideas sparked and they popped up from the story nook, she remained behind. I sat down on the floor near her and settled in. Some general encouragement and more wait time than felt possible hadn’t yielded fruit. I saw self doubt–what could I possibly say?

I dug into what I knew about her over the previous weeks.

“Maddy, what if you posted the book review you wrote? I remember you were wondering where we could publish it.” For a time there were only heartbeats and silence as she considered. Then she nodded. “Great! Let me show you how to add a link to your post.”

And when she finished that small but mighty post, she asked to write another–another review for another tweet.

I have cherished these mornings before school with readers. Moments like this make my heart jump. For Maddy I did a very quiet interior happy dance that to her would just look like a beaming smile.

But as I looked up from Maddy and around the room on this final morning, I saw many different iterations of that joy. Hers was soft. Others were exuberant.

An unlikely pair sat in one of the couches over a single iPad to design their book trailer for The One and Only Ivan. One had been staunchly against Twitter (in favor of You Tube), the other had been just as hesitant as Maddy. But the mention of Ivan softened them both. There they sat working side by side.

The other end of the library erupted in giggles as three girls who posted their debut selfie videos to our twitter feed last week (and reaped enough likes, retweets, and mentions to attract the attention of the local paper’s account) planned and staged a reading scene for their new video. Two of those girls I’ve seen as confident and steady over the years. But one has only just opened up. Last year in book conversations, though she is an avid and skilled reader, she would only watch and listen. Today she was doubled over in fits of laughter, hamming it up with reading pals old and new.

Behind those girls were two boys, who in the span of ten minutes had orchestrated a good chunk of a stop motion video you’ll smile to see. A lego mini figure drives up to a looming copy of Harry Potter, heaves open the cover, and knocks it down for a good look inside. This is not a tool I could have taught them. They had both used it at home and asked if we could add the app to our iPads for them to use here, too. Thanks to my amazing partner in wildly ambitious and continually evolving projects, Kristyn, we could make it possible.

How could anyone have a case of the Mondays with mornings like this? I don’t understand the people who are counting down to the final day. I’ll miss these moments. This is the seed of something special. I hope to nurture it and help it grow with just enough time and attention that it is fueled and not stifled.

It seems that while yesterday was the final official workshop, several of the projects need more time. All around the library in the minutes before the bell I heard, “Can we come back later today?”

Oh, my Reading Ambassadors, I hope you will come back many many times.

I relish the way students who have always had a strong voice are able to project it to the universe, and how quiet, unsure readers have found a voice and an amplifier to help it be heard.

This is a project we’ll continue next year in some form. I’m counting on these Ambassadors to show me how it might look.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Making Space for Young Readers and Helping Them Find Their Voices

  1. I invited readers in grades 3-5 this year. We may expand it at some point, but we’ve found on other projects that 2nd graders require more time and structure. I haven’t debriefed our year yet, but could imagine assigning ambassadors from grades 3-5 to specific classrooms K-2, plus their own. As for not hearing of it before, I just made it up…sort of as we went along. I’d be happy to share more about the various projects under that ambassador umbrella…and to borrow new ideas from others. Thanks for sharing it!

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