Building a Relationship

Ellie Stern

After intense, exhausting and INSPIRING training sessions in Tennessee, one might think the hardest part about being a Junior Literacy Leader (JLL) at Wise Readers to Leaders would be keeping up constant energy during Reading Rally and the integrated reading curriculum while somehow not losing your voice, but in reality, the most difficult part is saying goodbye to your scholars. During my second summer as a JLL, a scholar and I formed a relationship that made saying goodbye even more challenging.

Spending days and days in the reading circle, it is easy to notice specific strengths in each scholar, watching the majority jump reading levels. One student in particular consistently passed during the reading circle and remained quiet when others participated, yet he always grabbed chapter books during Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R) time. Observing his eagerness for a challenge, I encouraged him to read aloud privately with me. Eventually he and I began to form a strong bond and I watched him begin to read proudly in front of his peers and give thoughtful contributions during discussions. It was a pleasure to see how reading together created a important relationship for the both of us. Through the process, he began to share important things about himself with me while I had the honor to watch him discover “something inside so strong.” As the weeks moved on, I not only built a relationship with him, but also with his mother who was endlessly grateful for the growth she saw in her son through Wise Readers to Leaders.

During D.E.A.R time, we would always read the second volume of the book series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe together. After Wise Readers to Leaders ended, the student, his mother and I kept in touch. When his birthday came along, his mother sent me a touching message that her son’s birthday wish to receive a phone call from me. I was inspired to send him the entire series of the book we used to read together as a gift. His overwhelming joy was enough to encourage me to come back for my third year as a Site Coordinator in 2015. Sharing this with the Wise Readers to Leaders community at Stephen Wise Temple, I discovered they started a birthday book donation program for all scholars. After learning this, I was touched to see how one small gesture can turn into a larger benefit for all. Thank you!