Brianna is serving as a minimum time member at SCALE with the America Reads Program. America Reads is a social justice and literacy initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which prepares college students to work as literacy tutors for children in K through fifth grades.
There is something so incredibly awe-inspiring about books. Not only can they teach you something new about people, places, and things, but they can also transport you across space and time to a whole new world! A world crafted by words and pages that take you on an incredible journey where you become the main character. With books, you can be anything, go anywhere, and do whatever it is that your heart desires, effectively allowing you to escape your own reality and dive head first into a new one.
Growing up, I always loved books. I loved to go on secret adventures and be the fearless heroine that got to fight villains and fly on dragons. I would lock myself in my room for hours upon hours, beg my parents to buy me the newest book series, and even spend my lunch periods reading, making a sizable dent in my school’s library selections. Books were my first friend and have remained my best friend throughout the years. I found myself by getting lost in books and believe that I am all the better for it.
Enter the Martin Luther King Day Book Harvest donation drive. This collection drive was meant to collect books to give to kids who were without them. To be able to indirectly introduce children to the joy and awe that reading so often evokes in individuals was enough for me to not only jump at a chance at volunteering, but it also put a permanent smile on my face for the whole day! Thankfully, the book drive was successful and we helped raise over 5,000 books! To think that some children were introduced to their first book thanks to this amazing collaborative effort, their first encounter with being able to experience a whole new world crafted by the beautiful mind of the author is equal parts humbling and exciting to me. Even to think that I somehow played a role in possibly helping at least one kid find their first friend or maybe even their best friend in books still warms my heart to this very day!
After leaving this event, I felt as if my purpose was renewed. As I went back to my weekly tutoring sessions with America Reads, I knew that I had to do a better job of convincing my kids that there were far more to books than mere page numbers and allotted time. I felt that it was my personal mission to share one of my greatest joys with my tutees in hopes that one of them would be the least bit interested in what I had to say. After carefully planned questions and prodding, I found that my kids really did enjoy reading, but only if they got to pick the book. Thrilled at this admission, I allowed them to bring in their own books to read and feel that this triggered the turning point in our sessions.
I found that one of my tutees really loved both the Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series and wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I didn’t say that we’ve had at least a dozen arguments regarding which house was better and why Ares was so much better than Poseidon. I saw a joy light up in my first grader’s eyes when we would talk about his favorite part of the chapter, and soon, he was begging for three more minutes of reading time so that he could find out what happened next. This was such a stark contrast to him refusing to read in our first sessions and I was ecstatic!
My second grader was a bit different. He liked to read well enough, but when asked to discuss what he read, he would lament and say “nothing” or “boring” and try to change the subject. However, this all changed when he discovered the Warriors series and flew through the books. Though they were at least two reading levels above his grade level, he seemed to effortlessly fly through them, excitement and patience taking over his features when he had to constantly re-explain the premise because I was unfamiliar with the series. But he didn’t let that stop him from telling me all about it, who he liked, didn’t like, and what he thought would happen next. I saw a whole new side to a kid that I didn’t think enjoyed our tutoring sessions much, and I have the power of books to thank for it.
I can honestly say that looking back on my time as an America Reads tutor, the journey has been incredible! Though there were some tough times scattered throughout the semesters, I can definitely say that had it not been for the power that books hold over anyone willing enough to explore the adventure nestled strategically within their pages, I don’t think that I would have been able to bond with my students in the way that I did. Who knew that my nerdy obsession with books as a kid would continue as a hobby as an adult, and spark a passion within me to share my love of reading with those that have yet to find theirs? That day of the book drive I made a vow to myself that I would spread the wonders of books to every child that would listen. I was successful with my students, and now I’m ready to turn my sights on the children of the world!