Guest Post: Stories of Service

A feature on K-3 Literacy Tutor Miriam Farris from the Virginia Service blog!

Igniting a Passion for Learning for Struggling Students

Miriam Farris is an AmeriCorps member and tutor with The Literacy Lab – Virginia Reading Corps program at Elizabeth Redd Elementary School in Richmond. Redd is a Title I school, which means that a high percentage of its students come from low-income families. Miriam reflects on a recent experience she had working with a struggling student.

“I serve fifteen students each day, some of whom are immigrants and English language learners (ELL),” explains Miriam. “My ELL students speak Spanish at home, and they rarely have the benefit of parental reinforcement when it comes to reading in English, which contributes to their struggles at school. I am both challenged and delighted to tutor ELL students and help boost their confidence.”

“One of my ELL students is a second grade boy who reads on a low first grade level. When the school year began, I intentionally chose passages that he could read with some level of success, but my attempts were still met with sullenness and frustration on his part. I knew he recognized individual letters and was able to blend letter sounds together, but these skills did not seem to transfer to reading words. I would encourage him to track with his finger as he read and to incorporate other skills like “sounding out” words, but my positive reinforcements were met with blank stares and what appeared to be a lack of effort.”

“After several weeks of little progress with an activity called duet reading, we changed to a program called Great Leaps. Great Leaps incorporates sound awareness assessments in addition to reading letters and words on the page. He is now “leaping” pages on a daily basis, and he sees his success in a tangible way by tracking his reading scores on a graph. The graph gives him ownership of his reading progress, and I can tell he is happier during our tutoring sessions. He also now greets me with enthusiasm whenever he sees me in the hallway and has generously shared his classroom artwork with me. He is still reading below the second grade level, but I believe his newfound confidence will carry him far by the end of the school year. Working with students like this extraordinary young man has reignited my own dreams to learn Spanish and become an ESL teacher.”